What is minimally invasive spinal surgery?
Decades ago, surgeons used the "open" method of operation when dealing with the spine, requiring large, risky incisions. Patients with neck and back problems endured a long period of recovery, and regardless of the severity of their initial conditions, they almost always experienced pain. With innovations in medical technology, neurosurgeons can now use minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS). The low-risk technique is a perfect solution for sufferers whose pain has not lessened with traditional physical therapy, medications, and other nonsurgical treatments. Today, expert physicians will recommend the procedure for the treatment of many back conditions, helping patients avoid more extensive traditional spinal surgeries.
What is the minimally invasive spinal surgery like?
During an invasive operation, neurosurgeons pull back the muscles in order to access the spine. The method is effective but risky, damaging soft tissue and compromising the health of other organs in the area. Surgeons can remove a bone or disk, position screws, or perform a bone graft, but they're also doing needless damage resulting in longer hospital stays and post-procedure pain.
Minimally invasive spinal surgery allows doctors to access the spine through small incisions in the skin, eliminating the need for an extensive cut. There are many methods, but most involve a tool called a tubular retractor, which is carefully positioned in the area requiring surgery. With the help of live x-ray imaging, surgeons will use the tube as an entranceway to the bone, letting them complete a variety of operations. Any materials that enter or exit the body, such as a placed rod or removed disk, will safely pass through the retractor. Patients are given either general or regional anesthesia.
What is recovery like?
Once the surgery is complete and the tubular retractor is removed, patients typically require a 2-3 day stay in the hospital for initial recovery, which is half the time of open surgery. As with any major operation, there are complications such as infection related to MISS, but prospects are usually better than those who undergo more invasive procedures. Minimally invasive surgeries still require physical therapy to help sufferers regain their strength and get back to their pre-surgery form. Most patients can return to work in a few weeks depending on the severity of their condition, with many needing 6 full weeks to resume their regular activities.
Is minimally invasive spine surgery a good option for me?
Minimally invasive spinal surgery is recommended for a variety of common conditions, but everyone's case is different. Only an expert neurologist can decide which method is best for you. In general, the following conditions make patients ideal candidates for MISS:
- Herniated disk
- Degenerative disk disease
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
- Spinal infections
- Spinal cord trauma or injury
- Vertebral fractures
- Benign tumors (neurofibroma)
- Metastic tumors (cancerous)
- Spinal instability
Some patients will still require traditional open surgery. Ask a respected neurosurgeon about your eligibility for MISS.