Undergoing a spinal procedure without prior information may seem daunting, especially if it involves surgery. Among the many medical methods to treat spinal conditions is a foraminotomy. Your doctor will recommend it after thoroughly assessing your overall health and establishing where the cause of your medical complications stems from. Since spinal surgery requires skill and high levels of care, you want to partner with a highly experienced medical team that understands the importance of extending quality services.
At LAMIS Institute, we provide excellent medical services to patients experiencing spinal discomfort in Los Angeles, California, including foraminotomy procedures. Our medical team is well equipped to conduct a holistic examination for accurate diagnosis. We also take each patient’s case seriously, allowing us to prioritize your full recovery as needed.
An Overview of Foraminotomy Procedure
When your doctor recommends a foraminotomy procedure, they do so to eradicate any form of pain or pressure on the nerves surrounding your spinal cord. Understanding the general spine anatomy is essential for you as a patient who may undergo the procedure, as it helps you better appreciate the process.
Usually, your spine is made of discs that face each other, forming a spinal column. This column should support bones called vertebrae, essential to supporting your posture. On top of this, the spinal column supports a passage for nerves to run through the spinal cord to different body parts.
Since the vertebrae bones should remain open for the nerves to pass through seamlessly, any compression can cause medical complications. Typical causes of compressions are bone enlargements or misalignment in the spinal area. A foraminotomy, therefore, becomes essential when the spinal opening that holds your nerves is compressed, giving the nerves less space.
The procedure should open up the affected vertebrae on the spinal column to reduce the pressure on your nerves and eventually stop any symptoms related to nerve compression. Since your doctor needs to access the affected spinal area, a foraminotomy is a surgical process with minimum to moderate invasion.
Signs that You May Have Compressed Nerves
Understandably, you may be unsure of whether you have any signs of compressed nerves, translating to the need for a foraminotomy. Therefore, your doctor will advise you to go in for a consultation if you notice any of the following symptoms:
Pain Around Your Neck
Since the neck is closely connected to the spinal cord and provides an exit nerve passage through the neck discs, any compression around the area can cause pain. It may start as mild discomfort and build up to persistent pain, prompting you to consult your doctor.
General Back Pain
Notably, your nerves transmit signals to the brain to react to stimuli accordingly. However, when they are under pressure and compressed under the spinal column.
Hence, you will likely feel a dull pain that indicates continuous nerve compression. You may also experience discomfort in short bursts, depending on whether the compressed nerves are still functional.
Tingles in Your Limbs
Moreover, some patients report a tingling sensation in their arms and legs, indicating that their nerves may not correctly transmit signals to the brain. While arm and leg tingling is familiar after resting your limbs in one position for a long time, nerve damage may cause a different sensation.
Upon noticing the unusual tingles, you want to contact your doctor as soon as possible to diagnose the condition and set the way forward.
Patients In Need of a Foraminotomy Procedure
Specific patients may automatically qualify to undergo a foraminotomy procedure, especially if they have pre-existing medical conditions. Thus, learning whether you fall within the category of patients who most likely need to undergo surgery can be beneficial.
Additionally, falling within this category means you do not have to wait until the condition worsens to seek medical treatment. Many patients will wait until later, primarily because they are unsure of the cause of their symptoms. In some cases, patients may also fail to notice telling signs, meaning they do not recognize the onset of their spinal nerve compressions.
The following are patient groups who often undergo foraminotomy surgery:
Patients Living With Congenital Conditions
A congenital condition occurs at or before birth, meaning you will have lived with it all your life. For example, if your bones cannot strengthen and withstand your body weight as you grow, you may suffer from a congenital osteoporosis-related disease.
Similarly, patients with dwarfism acquire the trait at birth, meaning they cannot change their physical growth. Subsequently, the reduced growth rate may apply additional pressure to your bones and vertebrae, resulting in compressed nerves.
You will need a foraminotomy if you report any symptoms pointing towards nerve problems to help remedy the situation. Nevertheless, not all persons with dwarfism will require surgery, as your bones may adapt to withstand your body weight at different ages. Overall, consulting your doctor if you are unsure of any symptoms you face is the best option.
Patients With Spinal Arthritis
If you face arthritis affecting the spine, you are prone to experience symptoms associated with nerve damage or compression. Usually, bone degeneration causes some spinal column bones to enlarge or adopt an abnormal shape.
Consequently, irregular bone shapes can affect the openings that support your nerves and cause pressure on them. Thus, your doctor may recommend a foraminotomy to offload the pressure and help your bones realign.
Notably, arthritis affecting the spine is a common condition among the elderly. Therefore, while medication to reduce its effects is available, you want to consult your doctor for checks regularly if you fall within the older patients’ category.
Patients at Risk of Tumor or Cyst Formation
Patients prone to tumors or cyst growth should also consider undergoing a foraminotomy to help ease the pressure off their nerves. These include cancer patients or those who have undergone previous treatment for cysts.
The rationale is that any cyst or tumor growth may displace your vertebrae or cause an abnormal enlargement around the spinal column. Consequently, the opening where your nerves pass through is severely compressed and introduces pressure.
Patients Dealing With Ligament Enlargement
Moreover, any change of position in the ligaments surrounding your spinal column can also introduce unwanted pressure on your nerves. The situation may occur for various reasons, including changes in build after intense exercise. Body injuries may also misalign your ligaments and cause a change in the vertebrae bone position.
Your doctor will make a proper assessment based on the symptoms you report to help you receive the correct treatment. If they recommend a foraminotomy, it will be to realign the enlarged ligament and relieve pressure off the nerves.
Preparing for a Foraminotomy
As a patient cleared for a foraminotomy, you want to learn what to expect well in advance. This way, you have a better chance of being available and complying with your doctor’s requests as expected.
Your medical provider will guide you on the way forward and should inform you of the rationale for each preparation step. The information can help you relate your current treatment to any previous procedures that your doctor needs to know.
Therefore, the first preparation step is coming in for your consultation and medical examination. The session gives your doctor a chance to learn about your medical history. When they ask about your previous treatments, you want to mention any relevant information that may affect your scheduled foraminotomy.
For example, you should disclose whether you are currently under any medical prescription, as mixing doses may cause serious health risks. Further, you should disclose whether you have allergies to a specific medication, as the details will help your doctor establish a workable balance when administering drugs.
Moreover, your doctor will inquire about your family medical history, including blood groups, hereditary conditions, and genetic predispositions. Thanks to the information, they can establish whether you will have a blood donor if necessary and whether any underlying complications may jeopardize your health during the surgery.
Once the medical professional receives all the helpful information, they will conduct physical examinations on you to find the affected area in the spinal column. These include applying slight pressure across the affected area to check your response. Your doctor may also check for any inflammation on the reported painful site in your spine.
Thus, you can expect to undergo imaging procedures like X-Rays and CT scans. When the images are ready, the doctor will study them and call you to interpret the specific condition affecting you. You can also use this time to ask questions to understand better why you face your current situation and how the doctor will remedy it.
What to Bring to the Hospital
Since the doctor will schedule you for surgery, you will likely be an in-patient a few hours before the procedure. Further, you will need to recover for a few days to allow your caregiver to monitor you and report on your recovery process.
Due to these requirements, you can work with a small checklist to inform you on what to bring to the hospital during your stay. You can include toiletries like your toothbrush and paste, soap and a change of clothes. Moreover, you can bring your electronic devices, though you will have limited access to them during and after surgery.
Finally, part of the preparation process also requires you to make post-surgery arrangements, specifically on your mode of transport back home. For example, if you are unfit to drive yourself after taking medicine, you can request a loved one to pick you up.
What to Expect During the Procedure
A foraminotomy procedure may vary depending on the affected area in your body. Nevertheless, your doctor will start you off with the standard processes like administering anesthesia.
You will also need to position yourself properly so the surgeon can access your spinal column smoothly. Thanks to the team in the operation room, you do not have to worry about the process, and you can trust your doctor to proceed with the operation.
Firstly, your doctor will make an incision on the affected area to access your internal vertebrae. They access the region through your back or neck, based on how far the affected nerves are along your body.
Upon reaching the targeted vertebrae, they will use special tools to expand a spinal part called the intervertebral foramen. Notably, this spinal section provides a passage for your nerves through the spinal cord. Therefore, enlarging it is part of the primary reason for your surgery.
In some cases, moving the foramen should be enough to remedy your nerve compression, as the passageway is the primary cause of discomfort. However, if your condition arose from additional blockages along the spine, the doctor should also remove them for a complete remedy.
Once the surgical team confirms that the passageway is open and that your nerves are free from the initial pressure, they will conclude the surgery. You will receive stitches and a cover-up on the operated area until you heal.
Risks Associated With a Foraminotomy
Any invasive medical procedure may bring about some risks, depending on how your body reacts and your doctor’s applied procedures. While the correct processes may apply during surgery, you may experience some complications during or after the surgery.
If so, your doctor will work towards eradicating the extreme reactions to help you stabilize and begin your healing process. Common risks associated with foraminotomy procedures are:
Since your doctor needs to make an incision to access your spinal column, you may be prone to blood loss ranging from moderate to high amounts. The complication is more likely to occur among patients with underlying conditions affecting their blood composition.
For example, having a lower platelet count can be risky, as these components aid blood clotting. In turn, blood clots control the amount of blood you lose, especially near an open wound.
Alternatively, you may experience extreme blood loss if an unforeseen incident arises in the operating room. Any unintentional cut to a vein or artery carrying blood away from the heart can cause bleeding if the surgical team cannot control it on time.
Once your doctor determines the amount of blood you lost, they will authorize immediate blood transfusion to help your body recover. The process should occur soon after the team controls your blood loss to prevent your blood pressure from reducing to alarming levels.
A blood transfusion should involve transferring blood from the same group as you, as any foreign composition can cause fatality. You can expect your medical team to follow up on obtaining the correct blood type for your recovery.
Opening up any body part during surgery may expose you to infection, as disease-causing microbes can easily penetrate the bloodstream. Infections are more common among patients with a lower immunity than usual, as the bacteria will quickly overpower the white blood cells.
On the other hand, an infection may occur if the surgical team uses unsterilized tools. You are also at risk if the medical team fails to follow the correct safety procedure throughout the foraminotomy. Thus, choosing a reputable team to perform the procedure is advisable.
Typically, infections become apparent a few hours after the surgical process, as your body will begin to show symptoms. Indicators include fever, shivering, joint and muscle pain, and general body weakness. Upon experiencing any of the mentioned symptoms, you want to notify a caregiver immediately to receive timely medication.
Alerting your doctor of a potential infection can mean the difference between making a full recovery and a risk of death. The infections can quickly spread in your body, leading to conditions like sepsis.
Treatments to contain an infection range from regular antibiotics to drip medication that relieves your symptoms faster. You will recover and return to your everyday life with the correct response and care.
The nerve damage your doctor detects may arise from different causes, which can worsen after surgery. For example, if you suffer from spine arthritis, exposing the vertebrae bones can accelerate your condition and cause more degeneration. Consequently, you may need a second operation to realign the spinal column after the affected vertebrae move out of place.
Additionally, spinal damage may occur if the nerve fibers move out of place during the enlargement of your intervertebral foramen. Similarly, if the surgeon kills off nerves in the surrounding area during surgery, they may affect your entire spine and cause damage.
Consequently, your surgical team should remain careful when conducting the surgery to avoid any complications. If you are a victim of spinal damage after a foraminotomy, your doctor will provide possible solutions or alternatives to help you recover or adapt to the new health conditions.
Your nerves are exposed and at risk of damage during a foraminotomy procedure, depending on the type of blockage they face. The bone or inflammation causing a blockage may have attached to the surrounding muscle. Consequently, your doctor would need to cut through some nerve endings when opening up the blockage, resulting in nerve damage.
Ultimately, nerve damage can affect different body parts based on where they transmit signals. Hence, nerve damage can yield either severe or mild outcomes, and you can make a recovery soon after. However, if your condition is severe, you may need additional treatment and rehabilitation to save your life and help you regain your health.
Allergic Reactions to Anesthesia
Furthermore, some patients face adverse reactions to anesthetic drugs even when they had previously not disclosed any allergen details. The outcome may occur for various reasons, including new chemical combinations in the drugs that do not align with you.
For example, your body may reject the anesthetic drugs and cause you to wake up before your surgery. If so, you are at risk of body shock from the pain you will experience, and your doctor would have to administer alternative drugs to help you become unconscious again.
Similarly, you may experience the effects of anesthetic drugs after surgery through various symptoms. For example, your doctor can mark it as a reaction if you have severe nausea, dizziness, or general body weakness without an infection.
After confirming that your body’s reactions are from the administered drugs, you will receive medication to relieve your symptoms and help you regain your everyday health. The medical team taking care of you will also monitor you for a few days to prevent any cases of extreme reactions. Hence, you may have to stay in the hospital longer than expected.
Care Tips to Apply After a Foraminotomy
If your surgery is successful, you can leave the hospital in a few days. Therefore, you can return home and continue your everyday life as your body recovers. Since you will be out of the doctor’s care, they will provide aftercare tips to help you recover more smoothly.
These guidelines also serve as preventative measures to reduce your chances of an infection or a spinal complication. Some guidelines to observe include:
- Eating a balanced diet
- Avoiding strenuous exercises or work
- Taking all prescribed medicine
- Visiting your doctor for check-ups on scheduled dates
Contact a Neurointerventional Surgeon Near Me
When you or a loved one requires a foraminotomy to relieve pain and discomfort in your spine, you want to work with an experienced neurointerventional surgeon. Choosing a trusted medical provider can mean the difference between making a full recovery and facing potential risks. Furthermore, you should ensure that your medical provider gives you all the details surrounding your treatment to help you make informed decisions.
At LAMIS Institute, we dedicate our services to helping our patients lead healthier lives. Our input involves conducting medical procedures like a foraminotomy when necessary to relieve excess pressure on your spinal nerves. Thanks to our well-equipped facility and experienced professionals, you can expect high-quality services promoting your health. If you or a loved one requires more information on foraminotomy procedures in Los Angeles, California, call us at 310-734-6088.