If you’ve got chronic back pain that is unrelenting, you probably have seen the ads for minimally invasive spine surgery. The ads make the procedure sound simple, quick and claim that the incision can be closed with just a Band-Aid being applied to the patient’s back.
As with most surgeries, of course it is never as simple as the ads suggest, and contrary to the ads, lasers are very rarely used in spine surgeries. Nevertheless, minimally invasive surgery does have many benefits and you may have wondered if your own condition can be treated with minimally invasive surgery.
What is minimally invasive spine surgery?
There are actually several different types of minimally invasive approaches to spine surgery. The type and approach that is best for you and your condition will depend on your specific condition, general health, and your surgeon, but they all involve small incisions, and computer-assisted image guidance during the procedure.
The procedure performed will largely be determined by the best access for your condition. The surgeon may approach the area of the spine to be treated from the front (anterior), from the back (posterior) or from the side (laterally).
The approach used may include:
- Tubular retractors
- Percutaneous access
- Direct lateral access
- Endoscopic access
A tubular retractor uses a special device that allows progressive dilation of the soft tissues, as opposed to cutting directly through the muscles, to keep the muscles out of the way to allow access to the spine for the placement of devices, such as rods and screws, to stabilize your spine or to immobilize the spine to facilitate fusion of the spinal bones.
Percutaneous means through the skin and involves a small incision to allow access to the spine. This technique provides direct visualization of the operative area.
Direct lateral access uses a small, 3 cm (1 inch) incision to allow direct access to the vertebra from the side using tubular retractor and instruments to allow image guidance for removal of degenerated disc tissue, or bone. It also allows for placement of specialized implants that stabilize the spine.
Endoscopic access is similar to percutaneous access in that it allows for direct visualization to the diseased area. Endoscopic access, unlike percutaneous access, allows the surgeon to perform a more complex surgery due to the larger working channel that is available thru the endoscope.
According to the American Association of Neurological Surgeons, the number of back pain conditions that can be treated with a small incision currently include:
- Degenerative disc disease
- Herniated disc
- Lumbar spinal stenosis
- Spinal deformities such as scoliosis
- Spinal infections
- Spinal instability
- Vertebral compression fractures
- Spinal Tumors
You may be eligible for minimally invasive surgery for low back pain if you have already tried and failed nonsurgical treatment options and your doctor can pinpoint the source of your pain.
Even with that, surgery may not be right for you. Surgery is not a last resort treatment option "when all else fails." Some patients are simply not candidates for surgery, even though they have significant pain and other treatments have not worked. Some types of chronic low back pain simply cannot be treated with surgery.
Your doctor will be able to tell you which Minimally Invasive surgical option, if any, might be a solution for treating your spinal condition. In some situations, Minimally Invasive Surgery may not be as safe or effective as traditional open surgery. If so, your doctor will be able to inform you about the relative risks and benefits.
At Advanced Orthopedics, our goal is to help you feel better and heal faster. Our advanced clinical skill and compassionate approach to treating your neck, back, shoulder, wrist, knee, and hip injuries and disorders are tailored to you and your particular condition. We embrace a compassionate, patient-first approach to orthopedic care and pain. Combined with extensive experience, innovative technology, and advanced treatments area able to provide you with the most comprehensive treatment plan. We are happy to review your MRI and discuss your options and answer all your questions to ensure you get the best treatment for you. For more information contact us at (407) 960-1717.
Source: American Association of Neurological Surgeons, “Minimally invasive Spine Surgery.”