Lumbar foramenotomy

Lumbar foramenotomy (PP code V2542)

Patients with a disc prolapse or degenerative ‘wear and tear’ changes in the back may have leg pain (sciatica) due to nerve root compression. Depending on the appearance of the scans and the severity of the symptoms it may be necessary to consider posterior back surgery to decompress the nerve roots. The results of surgery are generally good. For patients with sciatica the leg pain will usually improve after surgery.

The operation is carried out as microsurgery through a small 4cm incision using an operating microscope. It involves a general anaesthesia and takes approximately 45 minutes. Some patients can be treated as day cases but most patients go home the day after surgery. The wound is closed using a cosmetically sensitive technique with dissolving stitches so there are no clips to be removed.

The risks of surgery include:

  • infection
  • bleeding
  • spinal fluid leak
  • DVT/PE (clots in legs / lungs)
  • scar tissue
  • reoperation
  • recurrent symptoms


  • accelerated degeneration
  • nerve root injury
  • pain, numbness
  • weakness, paralysis
  • incontinence, impotence
  • general anaesthetic complications (heart attack, stroke)

Following surgery the patient may notice some lower back pain and stiffness but this should settle with simple anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. Some patients will develop tingling in the legs after surgery due to swelling around the nerves at the site of the operation. This is temporary and will usually settle down after a few days.

Patients do not usually need to wear a back brace or support. Specialist spinal physiotherapists will advice each patient on a postoperative exercise regime, to encourage back movements. Further outpatient physiotherapy sessions will be offered, where indicated.