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2 level Foraminotomy......what can I expect?...anyone had this?

AnonymousUserAAnonymousUser Posts: 49,671
I first posted a few weeks ago with questions regarding a Foraminotomy (Laminoforaminotomy)...Now it looks like the Dr. will do 2 levels...L4-5 & L5-S1....This is the "roto-rooter" job to give the nerves some freedom...I have sciatica that gets worse by the day...pain is 24/7 sometimes bad, sometimes fairly mild....Operation is on April 9...Just wondering if anyone out there has had this 2 level procedure done and what I can expect....I was told its one night in the hospital, then really take it easy for at least 2 weeks...by 6 weeks or so I should be back doing all activities....does this sound about right?....thanks in advance.


  • In a word, yes. If you have to have back surgery, this is one of the easiest. It is considered a "bloodless" operation, as the surgeon does not have to cut into bone. This makes recovery easier and less painful.

    The surgeon has determined that you have nerve compression that is resulting in your sciatic pain. He will go in and using a very small instrument, he will scrape away all the gunk that has built up in your foramina. He will be very careful to work around the nerve and will not have to handle the nerve as is necessary in other back surgeries. He will scrape away the bony overgrowth that is filling up what should be a clean exit hole. This will make room for the nerve to pass freely without getting kinked up.

    For this particular surgery, it does not really matter whether they work on one level or two. It will just mean a slightly longer surgery. It will not affect the stability of your spine or other issues you might worry about with another multi-level surgery just as a discectomy.

    I had this surgery on Jan. 20th. I think I was back in my room about 3:00. I had a catheter so I didn't even get up the first night. I was ready to go home by 10:30 the following morning.

    I was scheduled for PT at 10:15 and 2:15 and occupational therapy at 11:15. I showed off at the first PT session and she told me I was ready to be discharged. I called my husband to come get me, but he was tied up and couldn't get there till noon...so I just got dressed and hung out in my room. When the OT came in, I told her I had previous back surgery (fusion) and knew how to put on my socks and shoes, and all the things she was there to teach me.

    My surgeon told me the biggest problem he has with foraminatomies is trying to impress upon his patients after the surgery to take it easy!! After having been in pain and unable to do so many things for a long time, suddenly you feel so much better and want to do all those things. This results in increased swelling which can really undo the good results. This is a common mistake many people make.

    The recovery is more like recovery from a non-spinal surgery. You are mainly recovering from the surgery itself. Nothing has to grow together, or recover from being cut into, blood loss, etc. You will mainly have surgical pain while the incision heals.

    Of course everyone is different in how they heal so this is only a description of my experience. I had a fusion last year and the foraminotomy was so easy in comparison. I didn't need a single pain med after the procedure. After I got home the first day, I went for a walk and could go further than I'd been able to in years. I didn't have any sciatic pain for the first time in about 5 years.

    You will want to follow your doctor's directions exactly and take it really easy for the first week, easy for the second week and then gradually work your way back. You will want to avoid any activities that involve twisting or bending and you should not lift anything heavier than a gallon of milk for the first six weeks. Also, no reaching up over head (like to get something out of a high cupboard). Stretching while reaching motions should now be avoided. Reaching in general is a "no-no" for anyone with back issues. Instead of leaning toward something, move your whole body. If the remote control is just out of reach, get up and walk to it. Do not lean over and reach as far as you can. This is a very good way to herniate a disc, and it always happens doing the stupidest little thing. My mom ruptured a disc removing a snow boot, and you often hear of someone sneezing and having it happen!!

    So just take it easy, walk for exercise. Rest and allow your nerves to heal. Do not panic if you don't feel instant relief. Depending on how badly your nerves have been compressed, you may have some residual pain. And as I'm sure you've read over and over again, nerves recover VERY slowly. Hopefully you won't have permanent damage and you will be fine. :)

    xx Gwennie
  • Gwennie....Thanks again for a quick response....since this is my 1st. back surgery you can probably tell I'm a bit nervous. I always said I would do anything to avoid being cut on, but after 5-6 years of epidurals, they just don't work anymore...Time to bite the bullet and get this thing done....I certainly will take your advise and lay low for at least 2 weeks and then gradually start doing other activities (very carefully).....I'm a golfer, and the Masters is on that week, so being a couch potato will be easy. I'm glad you brought up that the nerves will take time to heal....they've been compressed for a long time. I will post after the operation to let you and others know the outcome and any info I can offer to the forum.....thanks again.....stevo
  • When you resume golf, you will need to start out slowly and cautiously. Don't just assume you can go out and shoot 18 holes!! If you search for something like "resuming golf after back surgery" you will find that there are several, detailed articles on the 'net that will walk you through the details of getting yourself ready to play again.

    Good luck. Read through the "sticky" at the top of this section on Back Surgery that goes through everything you will need for post surgery and recovery. You don't need everything on the list, but it will get you to thinking what you need to do to prepare for the surgery.

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