Provided by: Cleveland Clinic
Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
Among the benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery are less damage to muscles and soft tissue, less pain after surgery, shorter hospital stay, and quicker recovery and return to daily activities. Types of surgeries that can be performed include spinal fusion for disk disease, spinal tumor removal, deformity correction, and lumber spinal stenosis repair.
What is minimally invasive spine surgery?
Minimally invasive spine surgery is a method of performing surgery. In a “traditional” open surgery approach, your surgeon makes a single long incision (cut) through your skin. To help your surgeon clearly see the surgical site, a relatively large amount of muscle and surrounding soft tissue are spread or pulled out of the way or removed from the bone. This can result in more muscle damage and pain after surgery.
In minimally invasive surgery, your surgeon makes one or more small incisions (about ½ inch each) through your skin. A small metal tube or endoscope is placed through the incision to allow the surgeon to work through a smaller operative field. Working through smaller incisions causes much less damage to muscles and soft tissues than a single long incision.
What types of spine surgeries can be performed using a minimally invasive approach?
Many types of spine surgeries can be performed using a minimally invasive approach. These include:
- Spinal fusion is often performed on degenerative or “slipped” disks.
- Deformity corrections, such as for scoliosis and kyphosis.
- Decompression of spinal tumors.
- Repair and stabilization of vertebral compression fractures.
- Lumbar spinal stenosis.
- Infection in the spine.
If I need spine surgery, am I a candidate for minimally invasive surgery?
Not every patient is a candidate for a minimally invasive approach. There are specific indications for minimally invasive surgery – when it works well and when it shouldn’t be done from a safety standpoint. Each surgery must be customized for the patient and the technique. However, before surgery is even considered, your spine care team may decide, during your evaluation, that there are other treatment options that should be tried first before surgery is considered.
How do I prepare for spine surgery?
To prepare for spine surgery:
- Quit smoking if you smoke. Ask your provider for help. There are medications and programs that can help you quit.
- Exercise on a regular basis to keep your body and muscles in shape to shorten your recovery time.
- Make sure you and your surgical team review all the products you take a few weeks before your surgery date. You may need to stop taking non-essential medications and herbal remedies. These may react with anesthetics or other medications you may be given.
You surgeon will order X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) tests of your spine. You may be given antibiotics to take before and after your surgery. Antibiotics help prevent infection. Your healthcare provider will tell you what you can eat or drink the night before your surgery.
What are the benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery?
Minimally invasive spine surgery offers several advantages over open surgery, including:
- Less anesthesia.
- Less blood loss during surgery.
- Less muscle and soft tissue damage.
- Reduced risk of infection.
- Less pain after surgery.
- Less pain medication use.
- Better cosmetic result (a few tiny scars vs one large scar).
- Shorter hospital stays (a few days vs about a week).
- Shorter recovery time (a few months vs up to a year).
- Quicker return to daily activities, including work.
What signs should I look for that indicate I need to call my healthcare provider?
Call your provider right away if:
- The amount of fluid leaking from your incision increases (a small amount is normal).
- You have a fever (over 100.4° F or 38 C)
- Your pain is getting worse.
- Call 911 or go to the emergency room if you:
- Are having trouble breathing.
- Have a severe headache.
What factors do I need to consider when looking for medical help for my spine problem?
To achieve the best outcome for your spine or back pain problem, it’s important to do some research and find a spine treatment center that offers a team approach. Surgeons need to be highly knowledgeable, and skilled and have a lot of experience in using minimally invasive techniques. Surgeons shouldn’t be the only team members, however. A good spine health team will include physical medicine and rehabilitation physicians, interventionalists (addresses both the mental and physical aspects of your spine problem), general neurologists, pain psychologists as well as a diverse surgical team. Never hesitate to ask many questions about a step-wise plan for your spinal health and, if surgery is needed, don’t hesitate to ask about the number of surgeries the team has performed and their outcomes.
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