Degenerative foraminal stenosis of the cervical spine can lead to cervicobrachial neuralgias. Computed tomography (CT)-scan assists in the diagnosis and evaluation of foraminal stenosis. The main objective of this study is to determine the bony dimensions of the cervical intervertebral foramen and to identify which foraminal measurements are most affected by degenerative disorders of the cervical spine. These data could be applied to the surgical treatment of this pathology, helping surgeons to focus on specific areas during decompression procedures.
A descriptive study was conducted between two groups: an asymptomatic one (young people with no evidence of degenerative cervical spine disorders) and a symptomatic one (experiencing cervicobrachial neuralgia due to degenerative foraminal stenosis). Using CT scans, we determined a method allowing measurements of the following foraminal dimensions: foraminal height (FH), foraminal length (FL), foraminal width in its lateral part ((UWPP, MWPP and IWPP (respectively Upper, Medial and Inferior Width of Pedicle Part)) and medial part (UWMP, MWMP and IWMP (respectively Upper, Medial and Inferior Width of Medial Part)), and disk height (DH). Foraminal volume (FV) was calculated considering the above data. Mean volumes were measured in the asymptomatic group and compared to the values obtained in the symptomatic group.
Both groups were made up of 10 patients, and a total of 50 intervertebral discs (100 intervertebral foramina) were analyzed in each group. Comparison of C4C5, C5C6 and C6C7 levels between both groups showed several significant decreases in foraminal dimensions (p< 0,05) as well as in foraminal volume (p <0.001) in the symptomatic group. The most affected dimensions were UWPP, MWPP, UWMP, MWMP and FV. The most stenotic foraminal areas were the top of the uncus and the posterior edge of the lower plate of the overlying vertebra.
Using a new protocol for measuring foraminal volume, the present study refines the current knowledge of the normal and pathological anatomy of the lower cervical spine and allows us to understand the foraminal sites most affected by degenerative stenosis. Those findings can be applied to foraminal stenosis surgeries. According to our results, decompression of the foramen in regard of both uncus osteophytic spurs and inferior plate of the overlying vertebra might be an important step for nerve roots release.