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What are minimally invasive spine procedures?

The idea of back surgery can be frightening, but advancements in the field of spinal procedures have led to several techniques that are less invasive than traditional spine surgery.

Minimally invasive spine procedures can reduce or eliminate pain and improve mobility, health and quality of life.

Some of the benefits of these procedures over traditional back surgery include:

  • smaller incisions or injections only
  • less post-surgical pain and reduced reliance on pain medications
  • less blood loss
  • little-to-no muscle damage
  • lower risk of anesthesia-related complications
  • faster recovery

 

How do minimally-invasive spine procedures work?

The biggest challenge when it comes to spine surgery is that the spine is located deep within the body, protected by thick muscle at the back and hidden under major organs and blood vessels in front. With traditional spine surgery, the back must be opened up and the muscles cut or dissected in order to access the spine, creating a significant amount of soft tissue damage. Anterior (from the front) approaches spare the back muscles, but put major blood vessels and the genitourinary tract at risk.

Minimally-invasive spine surgeries protect muscles and sensitive body structures while still providing the spine surgeon access to damaged vertebrae. Some minimally-invasive procedures are designed to treat the nerves that are causing back pain.

Types of minimally-invasive spine procedures

Certain spine procedures can now be done endoscopically. Endoscopic spine surgery allows the surgeon to access and treat damaged vertebrae through a small incision using dilating tubes, guidewires and moving X-ray imaging (fluoroscopy).

A less invasive form of spinal fusion surgery is lateral access spinal fusion surgery. Lateral access involves surgically entering through the side of the body rather than the back or front, which greatly reduces damage and risk to soft tissues and also allows for the placement of very large interbody implants that restore space between vertebrae.

Injections for pain management such as medial branch blocks and epidural injections help identify and treat the nerve or nerves that are causing pain. In some cases, once the troublesome nerves are identified, radiofrequency rhizotomy may be used to permanently disable them.

The biggest challenge when it comes to spine surgery is that the spine is located deep within the body, protected by thick muscle at the back and hidden under major organs and blood vessels in front. With traditional spine surgery, the back must be opened up and the muscles cut or dissected in order to access the spine, creating a significant amount of soft tissue damage. Anterior (from the front) approaches spare the back muscles, but put major blood vessels and the genitourinary tract at risk.