When faced with back surgery, many people believe that a painful surgery and lengthy recovery lies ahead of them. Not so, says McLeod Spine Surgeon Rakesh Chokshi, MD, who uses small incisions and other less invasive techniques:
Here are key points from Dr. Chokshi:
The spine is a very delicate structure. When we are in our mother’s womb, all the bones, joints, nerves and spine are formed from the same tissue, and everything is very close together. As a result, when we’re doing this surgery the distances between these important structures are very minimal, making it a precise surgery.
In the past, we had to open up the spine to directly see what the pathology was and address it. Even today for some type of problems, we have to do that, but for a lot of degenerative spine problems we can go through small incisions and through channels that the body provides us to have access to the spine.
When we say “minimally invasive spine surgery,” we are referring to small incisions on the skin. We create minimal disruption to the skin and muscles, while nerve supply is maintained. Rather than cut muscles, we spread things to go through it. And when we remove the access portal, tissues come back in their natural place. It’s less painful with less blood and a quicker recovery, because you’re not cutting through the tissues.
Typical spinal conditions we treat with minimally invasive spine surgery range from a relatively simple herniated disc in a young person, spinal stenosis in a middle-aged person, or reconstruction with fusion in an elderly individual with a complex spine deformity.
With smaller incisions, the skin heals cosmetically very favorably. Women can still wear bathing suits and not have to worry about big scars. Blood loss is lower, because the pressure from the retractors controls the bleeding and the healing is quicker.
Often, these procedures are done as outpatient surgeries where patients do not have to spend the night in the hospital. The recovery is faster, people can move around quicker, so they can get back to doing their activities of daily living faster and even return to work faster. They also need less pain medication postoperatively, which helps patients participate in other activities on a day-to-day basis.