Minimally Invasive Discectomy (Microsurgery)
What are the differences between an open and a minimally invasive discectomy?
A minimally invasive discectomy performed with the METRx® System uses a much smaller incision, generally about an inch in length. This type of surgery creates a small tunnel through the muscles in the back down to the area where the herniated disc is located. In comparison, an open discectomy involves a much larger incision and also involves stripping the muscles away from the spinal column so that the surgeon can see the area where the herniated disc is located. The actual surgical procedure, removing the fragments of the herniated disc, is very similar with both techniques.
How big is the actual incision for a minimally invasive discectomy?
The tubular retractor that is used to create a tunnel down to the spinal column where the herniated disc is located measures 1.6 cm in diameter (about ¾ of an inch). The actual skin incision is a little bit longer than this, but is generally about an inch in length. This type of surgery uses a "muscle splitting" approach, so that the tubular retractor is passed through a tunnel in the muscles of the back, rather than stripping them away from the spine, as in an open discectomy.
How dangerous is a minimally invasive discectomy?
While all surgery involves risk, orthopedic and neurosurgeons who have advanced spine training take steps to minimize those risks. With the METRx® System technique, your surgeon is able to work in a surgical field that is illuminated by a very bright fiberoptic light source and magnified by a special type of video camera that provides incredible detail of the area that is being operated on. If the procedure can not be done safely with the minimally invasive technique, then the surgeon can convert the procedure to an open discectomy. The potential risks associated with the use of the METRx® System include, but are not limited to, transitioning to conventional open procedure, neurological damage, damage to the surrounding soft tissue, and instrument malfunction such as bending, fragmentation, loosening, and/or breakage (whole or partial).
Breakage of the tip may increase surgical time. The surgery also may not be effective. Similar risks are associated with system use in other parts of the body.
How will I know if a minimally invasive discectomy is right for me? Your surgeon will be able to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of this type of surgical procedure with you. He or she will be able to determine if the cause of your back pain is likely to get better with or without surgery, and what type of surgery is the most reliable method for decreasing your pain and relieving the symptoms of a herniated disc.
It is important that you discuss the potential risks, complications, and benefits of the METRx® System with your doctor prior to receiving treatment, and that you rely on your physician's judgment. Only your doctor can determine whether you are a suitable candidate for this treatment.