Prior to back surgery a patient will undergo a thorough physical with X-Rays and MRI scans conducted to assess the extent of nerve compression and the location of any osteophyte growth or disc herniation.  Patients with radicular pain are the most likely candidates for foraminotomy, and those with severe disc herniation or multiple level spinal cord compression will usually have an alternative back surgery such as a discectomy and spinal fusion, or laminectomy and fusion.

A comparison of anterior cervical discectomy and fusion and a posterior cervical foraminotomy conducted by Tumialán (2010) found the foraminotomy to have a shorter recovery time and be beneficial in other ways.  Operating times were very similar between the two procedures, as was blood loss, and the use of pain-relief medication after surgery. The recovery times varied substantially however, with foraminotomy taking an average of 4.8 weeks to return to normal activity and anterior cervical discectomy and fusion taking 19.6 weeks on average. The likely cause of this difference is the amount of tissue trauma occurring during surgery and the amount of healing the body must, therefore, undergo.


Immediately before surgery a patient will be checked for signs of infection and the surgery most likely delayed if an infection is present.  Patients are advised to avoid eating or drinking overnight before a procedure and they will be given guidance on when to cease medications prior to surgery if applicable.  If herbal or nutritional supplements are being taken to control pain or for an unrelated condition then patients should ensure that their physician is aware of this as they may interfere with the procedure itself or the recovery.  As many patients use fish oil for back pain to control their pain they should know that this supplement may also have a blood-thinning effect which may increase their risk of problematic bleeding during, or after surgery which usually means that they should stop taking it for several days prior to their spine procedure.

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