Did you know that many spine surgeries are now minimally invasive? We understand how unsettling the idea of surgery can be, but advancements in medical science have made less invasive options much more common. And, importantly, minimally invasive spine surgery can be very effective.
This guide will discuss some of the most popular types of minimally invasive spine surgeries, and a few of the reasons that you should find a surgeon who specializes in less-invasive options.
Advantages of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
Every surgery has risks, and your surgeon will discuss these with you before any procedure. Minimally invasive spine surgery has a number of advantages over open back surgery.
The Mayo Clinic defines minimally invasive spine surgery as “a type of surgery on the bones of your spine (backbone). This type of surgery uses smaller incisions than standard surgery. This often causes less harm to nearby muscles and other tissues. It can lead to less pain and faster recovery after surgery.”
The Cleveland Clinic lists these among the benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery:
- Less anesthesia.
- Less blood loss during surgery.
- Less muscle and soft tissue damage.
- Reduced risk of infection.
- Less pain after surgery.
- Shorter hospital stay (as this is typically an outpatient procedure, either no hospital stay or a few days).
- Shorter recovery time (a couple weeks vs. a few months).
With a small incision and easier recovery, minimally invasive spine surgery is an appealing option wherever it is possible. Let’s take a look at some of the most widely performed procedures.
Endoscopic Spine Surgery
Most of the spine surgeries that are considered minimally invasive are endoscopic. Endoscopic spine surgery allows the surgeon to use a small incision to access and treat damaged vertebrae using dilating tubes, guidewires, and moving X-ray imaging.
Endoscopic spinal surgery, as we explain on our website, “is a revolutionary development in the field of spine surgery, allowing major spinal surgical procedures to be done through very small incisions with reduced pain, risk, and recovery time.”
Some of the procedures which can be performed in this way include:
Spinal Stenosis Decompression
Spinal stenosis is caused by a narrowing of the spinal canal that causes pressure on the nerves that run through the buttocks, hip, and leg. In this spinal surgery, your doctor will use endoscopic tools to decompress the spinal canal.
Minimally invasive cervical spine surgery
At the other end of the spine, if you are experiencing chronic neck and upper back pain, your doctor may recommend surgery on your cervical spine. This procedure is similar in that your doctor will attempt to remove bone and expand the canal that the affected nerve travels through.
Minimally invasive laminectomy
Much of the time, the procedures described above will be a procedure known as a “laminectomy.” The Mayo Clinic explains, “Laminectomy is surgery that creates space by removing the lamina — the back part of a vertebra that covers your spinal canal. Also known as decompression surgery, laminectomy enlarges your spinal canal to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves.” Though these are substantial procedures, these spinal surgeries are often performed in minimally invasive ways.
Minimally invasive spine surgery for spondylolisthesis
This procedure gets a category of its own, in part because a variety of minimally invasive spine surgery options are available to treat spondylolisthesis.
The Cleveland Clinic says, “Spondylolisthesis is a spinal condition that causes lower back pain. It occurs when one of your vertebrae, the bones of your spine, slips out of place onto the vertebra below it. Most of the time, nonsurgical treatment can relieve your symptoms. If you have severe spondylolisthesis, surgery is successful in most cases.”
If treating spondylolisthesis nonsurgically isn’t successful, then it can be treated with decompression, or with a procedure known as a spinal fusion. While we discussed decompression above, let’s look at a less-invasive spinal fusion procedure.
Lateral access spinal fusion surgery
The Cleveland Clinic tells us that in “a fusion surgery, your surgeon fuses (connects) the two affected vertebrae. As they heal, they form into one bone, eliminating movement between the two vertebrae.” While this used to be open surgery, medical advancements have enabled it to be a minimally invasive spine surgery.
One type of minimally invasive lateral access spinal fusion is a procedure called an XLIF. For an XLIF, your surgeon accesses the spine through the side of the body rather than the front or the back. This procedure is done through smaller incisions using x-ray imaging and nerve monitoring. Because this can be done using endoscopic techniques, the procedure can carry many of the same benefits as other minimally invasive spine surgeries, including a shorter hospital stay, less pain, and a faster recovery.
Ultrasonic minimally invasive spine surgery
The last procedure that we’ll explore is one that employs a fairly new and innovative technique that utilizes an ultrasonic blade to cut the bone without disrupting the surrounding tissues. There is potential to use this technique on a range of ailments.
If you are experiencing back pain, contact us at Desert Spine & Scoliosis Center of Arizona today to talk about treatment options including (if necessary) minimally invasive spine surgery.