A foraminotomy is a type of spinal decompression surgery that is performed in order to enlarge the pathway where a spinal nerve root exits the spinal canal. The term foraminotomy is derived from the medical term foramen, which means ‘hollow passageway’. The latter half of the term – otomy – means ‘to open’.


A neurosurgeon typically performs a formainotomy on a patient lying face down. The muscles and soft tissues attached to the spinal column are gently retracted. With the use of a high-powered operating microscope, the boney or tissue overgrowth obstructing the neural foramina are resected or drilled away. This procedure is typically performed for radiculopathy with often almost immediate relief of symptoms.