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What is a Foraminotomy?

A foraminotomy is a minimally invasive surgical technique that involves broadening the foramina, narrow passageways in our vertebrae that allow our spinal nerves to radiate outward to the body.

The spine is arguably one of the most important structural features of the body. If even one of the nerves in our spine becomes compressed, it can lead to debilitating pain that keeps us from participating in our daily life. This compression, or pinching, of nerves in the spine is a common occurrence. Especially as we age, the spine will naturally deteriorate, intervertebral discs will start to dry out and shrink, and the spaces between our bones can get smaller and tighten. This tightening can lead to pain and irritation from bone-on-bone friction or the pinching of nerves. One of the main locations in the spine that serves as a common site for this narrowing is the foramina.

The foramina are small openings between the vertebrae that act as doors for the spinal nerves to exit. The spinal cord itself travels down from our brain, branching off into smaller spinal nerves that extend to different points all over the body. These spinal nerves allow for messages to be transmitted from the brain to the body, and from the body back to the brain. An important job like this should not be interrupted. However, when it is interrupted, the side effects typically do not go unnoticed.

Referred to as foraminal stenosis, the narrowing of the foramina can be caused by natural degeneration with age, arthritis, bone spurs, spondylolisthesis, and bulging or herniated discs. Whatever the cause, the pain and symptoms associated with foraminal stenosis can be excruciating or debilitating.


The ideal course of treatment for foraminal stenosis typically begins with conservative treatment options, including pain management and physical therapy. When these treatments are unsuccessful, however, a minimally invasive foraminotomy may be a viable option for pain relief.

A minimally invasive foraminotomy is a surgical procedure that allows access to the foramina from the back side of the body. Using a small incision in your back or neck, your surgeon will gently move the muscles that surround the spine to the side, instead of cutting through them. Your surgeon will then remove a part of the foramina in order to relieve pressure and reserve more room for spinal nerves to exit. After this bony material is removed, the incision will be sealed.

With over 20 years of experience and innumerable foraminotomies in his case load, Dr. Frazier of NYC Spine is a leader in the field of spine surgery. World-renowned for his mastery of minimally invasive techniques, Dr. Frazier now directs his own practice at NYC Spine. Contact NYC Spine today to receive treatment from a leader in minimally invasive surgery!

Can a Foraminotomy help me?

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What are the Benefits of a Foraminotomy?

The advantages of minimally invasive foraminotomies over traditional, open-back procedures are astounding. Recent advancements in minimally invasive technology have changed the world of spine surgery and have helped many people to reclaim their life from debilitating pain. Some of the enduring benefits of a foraminotomies include:

  • Small incisions: Small 1 to 3-inch incisions, which result in less pain, blood loss, and scarring.
  • Less trauma to the body: Little to no damage to surrounding tissues as muscles are bypassed instead of deliberately cut through.
  • Shorter hospital stays: The vast majority of foraminotomies are performed as same day, or outpatient, procedures.
  • Shorter recovery times: With less trauma to the body, less time is required for healing.

Dr. Frazier is witness to the benefits of minimally invasive techniques, and sums it up with the following observation: “Over the last 3 decades I’ve worked with the best spine surgeons in the world and spine surgery has truly come a long way. What previously took over 8 hours and required 5-7 days in the hospital, I can now do successfully in less than 1 hour in an outpatient facility.” Contact NYC Spine today to experience the benefits of minimally invasive surgery firsthand. You deserve no less!

How do I know if I need a Foraminotomy?

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Do I Qualify for a Foraminotomy?

If you are experiencing the pain and discomfort associated with foraminal stenosis, then a minimally invasive foraminotomy may be suitable for you. An accurate diagnosis is always key to determining the appropriate procedure, so be sure to consult with a physician before making any decisions. As with all spinal conditions, unless the symptoms are life-threatening, more conservative treatments should be attempted and exhausted before turning to surgery.

For some individuals, however, a foraminotomy may not be the best option. Individuals with infections near the proposed incision site; those with a previous history of a failed foraminotomy; or patients with other serious health issues may be exempt. Furthermore, if there is already spinal instability, then removing more material through a foraminotomy may not be beneficial, or an additional procedure (such as a spinal fusion) may be needed to correct your condition.

The team at NYC spine is here to walk you through this process. Our team fully understands how important it is for our patients to define their own relief and will work tirelessly with to explore all the possibilities for treatment. You don’t need to suffer from back pain any longer. Contact our award-winning team of experts today to set up your very first appointment!

Am I a candidate for a Foraminotomy?

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Dr. Frazier is a Harvard-trained, board certified orthopedic spine surgeon. He’s held an academic appointment at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and New York’s SUNY Downstate. Dr. Frazier is also a respected lecturer, accomplished researcher, published author on spine disorders and treatment, and a consultant for several international spine companies.

After completing his undergraduate education at Brown University, Dr. Frazier attended Harvard Medical School, where he graduated cum laude. He completed a Harvard internship based at the New England Deaconess Hospital in Boston, MA, followed by a Harvard combined residency before becoming chief resident at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Education & Training

  • MD / Cum Laude

    Harvard Medical School

  • Chief Resident

    Mass. General Hospital

  • Lecturer

    Columbia University

  • Spinal Deformity Fellowship

    Doctor’s Hospital (Miami, FL)