Cervical Foraminotomy

Risks of a Foraminotomy Procedure

As with any surgery, complications can occur including infection, problems with anaesthesia, and thrombophlebitis (blood clots). Ensuring that the doctors are aware of any medications, prescribed or otherwise, prior to surgery is paramount as the biggest risk with anaesthesia is an adverse reaction to other medications in the system. Alternative medications which may thin the blood (including fish oils, and ginkgo biloba) can also cause surgical complications. Rarely, the patient may react to the anaesthetic itself. Patients at risk of breathing complications are likely to be placed on a ventilator during the procedure in order to keep their respiratory function steady and monitored.

Risk of Thrombophlebitits

Thrombophlebitis (deep vein thrombosis), can occur when blood in the large veins in the legs form blood clots which can then break apart and travel to other areas of the body. If the clot fragments enter the lung and cause a blockage there (a pulmonary embolism) this can cause damage to the lung tissue. This is rare and surgeons take care to prevent thrombophlebitis occurring by getting patients mobile as soon as possible after surgery. Some may prescribe blood thinners and anti-platelet drugs for those undergoing surgery, and patients may be advised to wear pressure stockings so as to keep the blood-return healthy in the legs.


Infection after neck surgery can be very serious. Skin infections may simply clear with antibiotic use whereas deeper tissue infections that spread into the bones require more aggressive treatment and may even necessitate further surgery to remove infected tissue in the spine. Any fever, increase in tenderness, or swelling of the back of the neck should be reported immediately to the patient’s physician for assessment and treatment. A foraminotomy does not remove the need for future surgery and some patients may suffer from a disc protrusion in the same area of the spine, or elsewhere which also requires surgery.

Nerve Damage

In addition to the usual complications of surgery, on rare occasions posterior cervical foraminotomy can result in nerve damage and ongoing pain. Injury to the spinal cord is rare but can occur. Accidentally knocking or cutting nerve tissue during the procedure can damage the nerves in the spine. Inflammation caused by the procedure, or scar tissue formation may also cause pressure to be put on the nerves, with resultant symptoms of a pinched nerve. Numbness and weakness may occur and should be brought to the attention of a health care professional immediately.

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Last Updated: 10/10/2010