It’s a new day in back surgery. Technological advances have made strides in the treatment of spinal conditions by using a minimally invasive surgical technique. But it’s not just the innovation that makes it significant—it’s what it means for you.

How May Minimally Invasive Surgery Benefit You?

Open spine surgery might be the best surgical approach for your specific condition. However, if a minimally invasive approach is an appropriate option for you, then you may experience these benefits:

  • Smaller incision and scar1
  • Decreased blood loss2
  • Less length of stay in the hospital2
  • Less pain medication needed while in the hospital2

How Does Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Differ From Open Spine Surgery?

In a traditional, open spine surgery, the doctor makes an incision and retracts, or pulls, the muscles to the side to get a clear view of the spine. The surgeon can then access and remove diseased and damaged bone or intervertebral discs. With minimally invasive spine surgery, surgeons can achieve the same operative goals as an open procedure, but in a less invasive way.2

How Are Minimally Invasive Surgeries Performed?

Minimally invasive surgery can be percutaneous (through the skin) or mini-open (operating through a small incision).

Spinal fusions and decompression procedures are performed with special tools called tubular retractors. During the procedure, a small incision is made and the tubular retractor is inserted, creating a tunnel to the small area where the issue is in the spine. The tubular retractor holds the muscles open and is kept in place throughout the procedure.3

The surgeon accesses the spine using small instruments that fit through the center of the tubular retractor. Any bone or disk material that is removed exits through the retractor, and any necessary devices such as screws or rods are inserted through the retractor.3

In order to see where to place the incision and insert the retractor, the surgeon is typically guided by fluoroscopy. This method displays real-time x-ray images of the patient's spine on a screen throughout the surgery. The surgeon may use an operating microscope to magnify the view through the retractor.3

At the end of the procedure, the tubular retractor is removed and the incision is closed.

Read about the METRx® System.

What Can Be Expected Following Surgery?

With minimally invasive surgery, patients may have less length of stay in the hospital. The exact length of time varies with each patient and individual procedure.

To help with recovery, the surgeon may recommend specific exercises as part of the postoperative treatment plan.

What Are the Risks That May Be Associated With Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

It's important to remember that even though spine surgeries can be done using a minimally invasive technique, it is still a surgery, and therefore not without risk. Potential risks associated with surgery include anesthesia complications, blood clots, allergic reactions, and adverse effects due to undiagnosed medical problems, such as silent heart disease. Injury to nerves and blood vessels can also occur. In addition, during minimally invasive spine surgery, the surgeon may have to convert to an open surgery if circumstances require.