Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Minimally invasive spine surgery is surgery on the bones of your spine that uses smaller incisions than standard surgery. This can mean less risk to nearby muscles and other tissues and lead to less pain and faster recovery.

Types of spine surgery that may be performed by minimally invasive technology include lumbar discectomy, laminectomy and spinal fusion.

Reasons for the procedure

Most people who have back pain will not need surgery. Your health care provider might advise spine surgery if you have a problem that hasn't gotten better with another treatment, such as medicine or physical therapy.

Spinal conditions that might be improved by surgery include:

  • Herniated disc
  • Spinal stenosis (narrowing of the spinal canal)
  • Spinal deformities (like scoliosis)
  • Spinal instability
  • Spondylolysis (a defect in part of a lower vertebrae)
  • Fractured vertebra
  • A tumor in the spine
  • Infection in the spine

Spine surgery can’t fix all types of back problems, and not all types of spine surgery can be done with minimally invasive surgery.

Risks of the procedure

Possible risks of minimally invasive spine surgery include:

  • Infection
  • Excess bleeding
  • Pain at the graft site
  • Nerve damage
  • Blood clots
  • Complications from anesthesia
  • Spinal fluid leaking, that may cause headaches or other problems
  • Incomplete relief of back pain
Before the procedure

Talk with your doctor about how to prepare for your surgery. Review the list of all the medicines you take, including over-the-counter medicines like aspirin. You may need to stop taking some medicines ahead of time, such as blood thinners. It’s best to stop smoking before your surgery, since it can delay healing.

Before your surgery, you may need imaging tests, such as X-rays or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). You may be required to refrain from eating or drinking after midnight the night before your surgery.

Be sure to tell your provider about any recent changes in your health, such as a fever.

During the procedure

Minimally invasive spine surgery is done by an orthopedic surgeon and a trained medical team. The specific details of the procedure will vary, depending on what part of your spine is being treated and other factors.

You may have a type of anesthesia that numbs part of your body. You’ll also be given sedation. This will make you relaxed but awake during surgery. Or you may be given general anesthesia. This prevents pain and causes you to sleep through the surgery.

Your vital signs, including heart rate and blood pressure, will be watched carefully during the surgery. You may be given antibiotics before and after the surgery. This is to help prevent infection.

During minimally invasive spine surgery, the surgeon makes a small incision and inserts a tube-shaped tool (a tubular retractor) that creates a tunnel to the problem area of the spine. The surgeon places small tools through the tunnel and makes the needed repairs. A special operating microscope provides real-time X-ray images of the spine.

When the repairs are done, the tools and retractor are then removed. The incision or incisions are closed with stitches, glue, or staples. A small bandage is put on the wound.

After the procedure

Some types of minimally invasive spine surgery can be done as an outpatient procedure. This means you can go home the same day. You will need to stay for a couple of hours after the procedure to be monitored for any problems. Or you may need to stay one or more nights in the hospital. When you’re ready to go home, you’ll need to have someone drive you.

You will have some pain after the surgery. This can be relieved with pain medicines. Often, the pain will go away fairly quickly.

Be sure to follow your discharge instructions regarding medication, diet and activity. These instructions will also tell you what signs or symptoms might require you to call your doctor or seek emergency care.

Your health care provider will give you instructions about how you can use your back after surgery. You may need to limit lifting or bending. You may need to wear a back brace for a time after the procedure. And you may need physical therapy after the surgery. This is to help strengthen muscles around the spine and help you recover. Your recovery time will vary depending on the type of surgery you had and your general health.

Make sure to follow all of your healthcare provider’s instructions about treatment and follow-up appointments. This will help make sure the surgery works well for you.

Technologies for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

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What to Expect for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

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Side Effects and Risk Factors for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

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Education and Resources for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

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Learn more about Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

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