Posterior cervical foramenotomy

Posterior cervical foramenotomy (PP code V2200)

Patients with a disc prolapse or degenerative ‘wear and tear’ changes in the neck will often have arm pain (brachalgia) 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 neck surgery to decompress the affected nerve roots. The results of surgery are generally good. For patients with brachalgia the arm pain will usually improve after surgery.

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
  • spinal cord injury
  • pain, numbness
  • weakness, paralysis
  • incontinence, impotence
  • general anaesthetic complications (heart attack, stroke)

The operation is carried out under a general anaesthetic and lasts approximately 45 minutes. It involves making a small linear incision down the back of the neck. Once the decompression has been completed and the nerve roots decompressed the wound is closed usually using a cosmetically sensitive technique with dissolvable stitches so there are no clips to be removed.

After the operation the patient will have a drain in the wound for 24 hours (this is removed on the ward before discharge). Most patients will go home the next day and will be recovering at home for approximately 4 weeks. Following surgery the patient may notice some neck pain and stiffness but this should settle with simple anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen. Some patients will develop tingling in the arms 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 neck collar or support. Specialist spinal physiotherapists will advice each patient on a postoperative exercise regime, to encourage neck movements. Further outpatient physiotherapy sessions will be offered, where indicated.