10 Things to Know About Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Minimally Invasive Spine SurgeryAre you experiencing chronic back pain? Have you tried various non-surgical treatments, such as medicine and physical therapy, without finding lasting relief? If so, you may be an ideal candidate for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (also known as MIS or MISS). MIS is a safe and effective alternative to traditional spinal surgery, which generally requires a long incision to be made along the back. Open surgery can be damaging to nerves and muscles in the back and spinal regions, and generally requires a longer recovery period.

Here’s everything you need to know about MIS before consulting a surgeon.

1.) MIS can be used to treat a variety of back and spinal conditions.

If you are suffering from chronic pain due to your spinal condition, you are most likely an ideal candidate for minimally invasive surgery. These conditions include, but are not limited to:

  • scoliosis (a condition in which the spine is curved abnormally)
  • spinal stenosis (a condition in which the vertebral column narrows, resulting in nerve compression)
  • degenerative disc disease (a condition in which spinal discs degenerate, often as a result of aging)
  • compression fractures (the collapse of a vertebra, often resulting from physical trauma or osteoporosis)
  • spinal disc herniation/herniated disc (a condition in which the soft, outer ring of a spinal disc shifts out of place, putting pressure on nerves along the spine)
  • tumors of the spine
  • spinal infections
  • other spinal deformities

2.) There are various types of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery.

There are various ways that spine surgeons choose to go about performing MIS. The location and type of surgery performed will depend upon your particular ailment. Many types of spinal surgery can be performed using MIS techniques, including cervical spine surgery. A few of the most common MIS procedures include:

  • Spinal Decompressions (including Laminectomies and Foraminotomies), are MIS procedures developed to treat spinal stenosis. A tubular retractor and endoscope can often be used to remove the tissue or bone causing the pain and pressure along the spine.
  • Discectomy, a treatment in which a herniated disc is removed, relieving nerve pressure or pain near the spinal cord. This procedure was traditionally performed via open back surgery, but can today be performed via a tubular retractor and microscope.
  • Spinal Fusions (including Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion [TLIF]), an MIS technique in which the spinal vertebra or discs are stabilized via techniques such as lumbar fusion, in which bone is used to fuse two vertebra together, reducing nerve tenderness and back pain. This is the most common form of lumbar spine surgery performed using MIS.

3.) Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery is generally performed using a tubular retractor.

Though this device might sound scary at first, it is actually a medical miracle. Traditionally, open spinal surgery involved making a five to six inch incision along the back. Surgeons would then have to pull back muscles and tissues to access the spine. A tubular retractor, however, greatly simplifies the procedure. Surgeons performing MIS need only make a small incision in the patient’s back, often as small as one inch long. The long, tube-shaped retractor is then inserted into the back, moving the muscles in the patient’s back very little. Surgeons may then use a microscope or endoscope to view the surgery through the retractor as it is performed. In short, the tubular retractor is the tool that makes MIS possible.

4.) Recovery from Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery is faster than recovering from open spinal surgeries.

If your doctor offers MIS as a possible procedure for your condition, you should definitely consider it. Traditional spinal surgery may require surgeons to cut or shift muscles in the patient’s back. In contrast, MIS requires little or no movement of the muscles along the spine, making recovery time faster and less painful.

Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery generally requires a hospital stay of only two or three days on average, allowing patients to be back on their feet again quickly. Some MIS procedures can even be performed as outpatient surgeries! If you’ve exhausted your non-surgical options but are too busy for a prolonged recovery, MIS is an ideal procedure for you.

5.) Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery is not the same as laser spine surgery.

Though laser spine surgery also involves making a small incision in the back, it has not been accredited by most official health organizations, and its benefits on spinal health are dubious at best. In contrast, MIS has been proven effective as a form of spinal surgery.

6.) Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery does have its costs – literally.

Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery, though highly effective, isn’t cheap. Surgery costs often exceed $20,000, and may be higher, depending on the amount of post-operative care that is needed. The good news for spinal pain sufferers, however, is that MIS is the cheapest surgical option available. Traditional “invasive” spinal surgery often costs $25,000 or more, and generally requires more extensive post-op care, including longer hospital stays and more medication. If your spinal pain is chronic, however, the procedure is worth the cost.

7.) The success rate of minimally invasive spinal surgery is high.

Though the procedure is still relatively new, Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery has been proven to be highly effective, aiding the spinal problems of over 90% of patients. Though the long-term success of these procedures has yet to be studied, it appears that MIS is as effective as traditional spinal surgery, with the added benefits of faster recovery times and less post-surgical pain.

8.) MIS has its risks; these risks, however, are small.

Surgery always has its risks, and MIS is no different from the rest. Potential risks of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery include:

  • infection
  • spinal fluid leakage
  • insufficient spinal decompression
  • nerve damage
  • chronic or persistent pain
  • bruising, bleeding, or blood clots
  • negative reactions or allergies to anesthesia
  • paralysis
  • stroke
  • pneumonia

Most, if not all of these conditions can result from open spinal surgery as well. Generally speaking, patients are at a lower risk of infection, pain, and illness after MIS as opposed to open spinal surgery.

9.) The disadvantages of MIS are similar to those of traditional open spinal surgery.

The main disadvantages for MIS in particular are due to the smaller incision made during this type of surgery. MIS may require a longer operation time, may expose patients to greater levels of radiation, and may not be ideal for certain cases of bone fusion, due to the small surface area of bone exposed during surgery. Additionally, it may be harder to treat spinal fluid leaks caused during MIS.

10.) Overall, however, MIS has many advantages!

Minimally invasive spinal surgery leaves patients with less scarring, less tissue damage, and less muscle damage than its open surgery counterparts. The risk of infection and blood loss are lower as well. Patients can return more quickly to work or school, and most have less chronic pain for the rest of their lives.

In Conclusion:

Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery (MIS) is a great alternative to traditional open spinal surgery. These procedures, however, are serious and costly. If possible, consider all non-surgical spinal treatments before pursuing surgical options. If you are certain that MIS is for you, consult a local spinal surgeon in your area to arrange for a medical consultation. Every patient’s condition is different, and not all conditions can be treated with MIS. This form of surgery, however, is ideal for chronic back conditions, and will likely continue growing in popularity in the years to come.

One thought on “10 Things to Know About Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

  1. Pingback: Considering Spinal Stenosis Surgery? Here’s What You Need to Know | Back Pain Health Center

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