Posterior Cervical Foraminotomy

  • Minimally invasive surgery
  • Decompression of cervical nerve root
  • Return home typically same day as surgery

Why is it done? 

The nerve roots in the cervical spine (upper spine) can become entrapped causing some neck pain, but mostly arm pain. Sometimes an anterior cervical discectomy approach is required (i.e. from the front), but often times the entrapment of the nerve can be released by approaching the nerve posteriorly (i.e. from the back of the neck).  This type of surgery is called a posterior cervical foraminotomy.

Recent advances

surgical approach using tissue dialators to open the skin and muscle without cutting. Cervical Retractor system in place

surgical approach using tissue dialators to open the skin and muscle without cutting.
Cervical Retractor system in place

Posterior cervical spine surgery has recently benefited from advancements in minimally invasive approaches. Surgical approaches to the posterior cervical spine (the neck) have notoriously resulted in a greater amount of post-operative pain and muscle spasms than approaches to the anterior cervical spine (the throat).  This often resulted in a delay of  hospital discharge and slower return to work, despite rapid improvements in pre-operative arm symptoms. The older posterior cervical approaches resulted a larger incision and hence more muscle trauma, which resulted in neck pain and occasionally even limited motion ability during the early phase of recovery.

Who may benefit from this?

Posterior cervical foraminotomy can be a good choice for patients who have had prior anterior cervical spine fusion. In the past, a second cervical spine surgery would require re-operation through the same fusion and scar tissue. By opting for posterior spine surgery, this can be avoided.

Also, in patients with an isolated focal nerve root compression exiting the neural foramen, the posterior approach allows for a more focused decompression without disrupting the disc space, thereby preserving the spine motion since no fusion is required.

The surgery itself uses minimally invasive techniques and is generally well tolerated. Typically, this type of surgery is done on an out patient basis (i.e. the patient can return home the same day) and usually, rapid return to work is possible.

See Article on Posterior Cervical Foraminotomy for Athletes – Posterior Cervical Spine Surgery


Tri-State Neurosurgical Associates-UPMC
Office Addresses:
Administrative Oakland Office
Presbyterian University Hospital
Department of Neurosurgery
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200 Lothrop Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15213
Phone: 1-888-234-4357

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