Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Traditional “open” spine surgery may require several days in the hospital as it may involve a three-inch long incision, in which muscles and tissues are separated for optimal access to the injury site. The surgery usually results in trauma to surrounding tissues and some blood loss. Because of this the affected tissues and muscles need adequate healing time.

Spine surgery then home the same day

Experienced spine surgeons use the latest minimally invasive techniques and instrumentation to help patients recover in a shorter period of time and allow for a quicker return home.

Innovative developments in minimally invasive techniques have pioneered better ways for the surgeon to access the spine, moreover making the recovery process more seamless. In minimally invasive spine surgery, a smaller incision is made, sometimes only a half-inch in length. The surgeon inserts special surgical instruments through these tiny incisions to access the damaged disc in the spine.

Entry and repair to the damaged disc or vertebrae is achieved without harming nearby muscles and tissues when using minimally invasive techniques. Minimally invasive spine surgery requires extensive training and experience to master use of the tools, but there is tremendous benefit for the patient.

About Minimally Invasive Equipment and Techniques

All of the surgical equipment used in minimally invasive spine surgery must be able to pass through a keyhole-sized portal. These portals are left in during the entire surgery to allow specially designed surgical tools to move freely into the patient’s spinal column and not to damage the soft tissue from exiting and inserting equipment.

When the portal is removed at the end of the surgery, the surrounding soft tissues slowly fall back into their normal place and only require a small amount of stitches to close the area.

Benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery include:

  • Smaller incision and smaller scar
  • Less damage to tissues and muscles
  • Less blood loss
  • Less post-operative pain
  • Less painful recovery
  • Quicker return to activity

Minimally Invasive Surgery FAQs

What is involved with a minimally invasive procedure?

Minimally invasive spine surgery in the lumbar area uses a small 1-inch incision to allow insertion of a special tubular retractor instrument with a camera to provide a constant video feed. Other instruments are inserted through this retractor to perform surgery on the disc level.

What is a Minimally Invasive Tubular Retractor?

A minimally invasive tubular retractor (MITR) is used to gain access to the spinal column. The device goes through a small keyhole in the muscles of the back, reducing damage to the spine where as normal open back surgery pulls the muscles away from the spine causing soft tissue damage. This device also helps control blood loss since it is not as harsh on the body than the alternative procedure.

What is a fluoroscopy?

A fluoroscopic C-arm is used to show continuous x-ray images on a monitor which enables the surgeon to navigate to precise areas in the back or neck.

Can all spine problems be treated using a minimally invasive approach?

Minimally invasive spine surgery cannot be used for all surgeries. Some procedures, like scoliosis surgery or reconstructive scoliosis surgery, can require a longer incision.  Even so, scoliosis surgery is changing. Dr. Matthew Geck at Ascension Texas Spine and Scoliosis in Austin, Texas is one of few scoliosis surgeons in the nation proficient in “mini scoliosis surgery”. With mini scoliosis surgery, Dr. Geck is able to correct a spinal curve through three smaller incisions rather than one long 10-inch incision. This provides for a faster and less painful recovery for the scoliosis patient.

How do I know if minimally invasive surgery is right for me?

Not every spinal procedure or patient is a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery. Your spine surgeon can advise you if there are new techniques and instrumentation available for your particular problem. Also getting a second opinion for spine surgery can help ensure that you are receiving the least invasive surgical option.

Are there risks involved with minimally invasive surgery?

Typically minimally invasive spine approaches lessen blood loss and reduce risks. Some of the risks associated with ANY type of spine surgery includes: adverse reactions to the anesthetic, blood loss, infection, blood clots, pneumonia, instrumentation tools causing damage to spine and surrounding tissues, and even paralysis (extremely rare).

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