Medically Reviewed by W.S. (Bill) Edwards, Jr., MD
Many surgical procedures have involved smaller incisions and various minimally invasive techniques for quite some time. Due to the delicacy of the spine, surrounding muscles and nerve pathways, it took longer to introduce these higher-tech approaches to back operations. Now, they are relatively standard for a full range of spine surgeries.
“Traditional spine surgery used an incision about 6 inches long and we pulled or retracted the muscles out of the way to see the surgical site,” says fellowship-trained McLeod Spine Surgeon W. S. (Bill) Edwards, Jr. “This often bruised or injured the muscle, leading to a longer recovery and more pain. Now, our technology uses small half-inch incisions and we gently spread the muscles to insert a small retractor or tube and then pass instruments through it. We can see what we are doing through the small surgical approach with an operating microscope that magnifies the surgical site and document our location with real time X-ray during the procedure.
COMMON MINIMALLY INVASIVE PROCEDURES
Not all spine surgeries can be accomplished with minimally invasive techniques but some of the most common minimally invasive spine procedures are:
Lumbar Discectomy: to remove a herniated disc in the lower back that pinches a nerve.
Lumbar Fusion: to place a bone graft in the disc space and, possibly screws and rods for additional support.
Other conditions that can be approached with this minimally invasive technique include spine fractures, spinal stenosis and cervical disc herniations.
Patient benefits from these spine procedures are similar to other types of minimally invasive operations for orthopedic, gynecological and general surgery. They include:
Any patient should be concerned with how they will fare after the surgery. In health care, it is called clinical outcomes. With surgeons, who are experienced in this type of surgery, the literature shows patient’s experience equal or better outcomes, compared to traditional open surgical techniques.
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
If you have spine or back problems, try nonsurgical approaches first, such as medication or physical therapy. If those treatments do not offer relief, talk with a spine surgeon about your problem and whether you are a candidate for minimally invasive surgery.
You may also find these articles helpful:
Pain Management at Home After Surgery
Save Your Vacation and Your Back: Travel Packing Tips
Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
Fine an orthopedic or spine surgeon near you.
Sources include: McLeod Health, American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, Society for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery, National Institutes of Health, Journal of Spinal Disorders &Techniques, American Association of Neurological Surgeons