Object. Anterior cervical foraminotomy has been advocated as a procedure that preserves the motion segment while treating radiculopathy due to degenerative cervical disc disease. Because the medical literature contains no long-term follow up or randomized studies related to this procedure, the authors reviewed their results, specifically examining cases of failure to determine the efficacy of the approach.
Methods. The authors identified 23 patients in whom unilateral cervical radiculopathy due to degenerative cervical disc disease was refractory to conservative therapy and in whom anterior cervical foraminotomy was performed between 1998 and 2000. The procedure involves ipsilateral exposure, microsurgical removal of the uncovertebral joint to identify the nerve root, and partial removal of the lateral anulus and or disc fragments. Data in those patients who underwent reoperation(s) were reviewed specifically for the procedure type, interval between index procedure and reoperation, and whether multiple procedures were performed. Of the 23 patients, 30% required at least one additional procedure. A good or excellent outcome at last follow-up examination was achieved in only 12 patients.
Conclusions. In the current study the authors found a reoperation rate that is considerably higher than that in most series of anterior cervical surgery for radiculopathy. The presumed benefit of anterior cervical foraminotomy is preservation of the disc interspace; however, in this study, a significant number of patients failed to experience a satisfying outcome. Currently the authors do not recommend anterior cervical foraminotomy as a stand-alone procedure.