What Is Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?
As the name implies, minimally invasive spine surgery is less invasive than traditional spine surgery: Doctors call that open surgery. Open surgery involves a long incision along your back. The surgeon then has to move the soft tissues and muscles around the spine.
By contrast, minimally invasive spine surgery involves a much smaller incision. The surgeon then uses a tubular retractor, which is a stiff tool that is shaped like a tube. This tool essentially creates a tunnel that lets them reach the relevant area of your spine by gently pushing soft tissue and muscle away. The surgeon uses a combination of small tools, real-time x-ray images, and an operating microscope. These tools let him perform the surgery through the tube.
Is Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Effective?
Yes, minimally invasive spine surgeries can be highly effective, at least when they are an option. They are not an option for treating all conditions but can treat many patients across our offices in New Jersey and New York.
Conditions We Treat
As mentioned, we offer minimally invasive spine surgery in Totowa, Clifton, Jersey City, as well as many other offices across NJ and NY. Minimally invasive spine surgery works well for certain conditions, including spinal fusion, laminectomy, spinal decompression, transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion (TLIF), microdiscectomy, microforaminotomy or foraminotomy, microlaminotomy, kyphoplasty, microlaminectomy, or lumbar discectomy. You will notice that most of those are either fusions or decompressions.
Several conditions may require minimally invasive back surgery to treat. In most cases, your spine specialists will try non-invasive treatments first and only suggest surgery when those don’t work. It is also essential to keep in mind that spine surgery is not an effective treatment for all conditions.
Some of the conditions of the spine we may treat with minimally invasive surgery include:
- Lumbar spinal stenosis (spinal canal narrowing)
- Herniated discs
- Spondylolysis (a lower vertebrae defect)
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal instability
- Fractured vertebra (including vertebral compression fractures)
Advantages of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
Minimally invasive spine surgery is such a popular option due to its numerous advantages.
From a cosmetic standpoint, the fact that a smaller incision reduces the cosmetic effects of surgery. Sometimes, the incision can be just a few millimeters, making it barely noticeable. In most cases, it is about an inch long, compared to the five- or six-inch cuts typical of open surgeries.
Reduced Blood Loss
Surgery typically comes with some degree of blood loss. Reducing the invasiveness of the surgery reduces this blood loss.
Lower Risk of Complications
Minimally invasive spine surgeries also have a lower risk of several complications. The fact that muscle will be cut less, if at all, reduces the risk of muscle damage and trauma. There is also a lower risk of postoperative pain and infection thanks to the reduced invasiveness.
Reduced Pain Medication Needs
That reduction in pain has its own benefits. Most notably, patients tend to be less reliant on pain medications following minimally invasive spine surgeries.
The fact that the surgery is less invasive also speeds up the recovery process. Additionally, patients require less physical rehabilitation than they would following open spine surgery. Overall, patients find themselves ready to return to self-care, leisure, and work much more quickly.
For comparison, after open surgery, some patients remain in the hospital for three to five days. After minimally invasive spine surgery, this is typically two days or less.
An Outpatient Option
Although not always the case, some minimally invasive spinal surgeries in our Totowa, Paterson, Clifton, and Jersey City offices, will come with an outpatient option. This is seldom the case with open surgery due to the differences in recovery time and risks.
Remember that Risks Still Exist
While minimally invasive spinal surgery tends to have a lower risk of certain complications than open surgery, any surgery comes with risks. Some of these risks include infection, failed fusion, returning the symptoms, nerve damage, bleeding, or blood clots. The risks are typically less than open surgery and worth considering. You can discuss them in more detail with your spinal specialist.