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The Multiple Benefits of Minimally-Invasive Spinal Surgery

Only 10 years ago, if you had spine surgery, you could expect it to take as much as one year before you would be able return to normal activities. Minimally invasive techniques, however, are changing the face of spine surgery. What used to result in a week-long hospital stay, a year’s recovery period and a large scar has been diminished to a few days, a few months and a few small scars.

How is minimally invasive spinal surgery performed?

Conventional spine surgery requires a long incision and a lengthy recovery period. Minimally invasive surgery, also known as “keyhole” surgery, uses a thin, telescope-like instrument known as an endoscope, which is inserted through small incisions. The endoscope is connected to a tiny video camera – smaller than a dime – which projects an “inside” view of the patient’s body onto television screens in the operating room.

Small surgical instruments may then be passed through one or more additional half-inch incisions. Following the procedure, the small incisions are closed with sutures and covered with surgical tape. After a few months, they are barely visible.

Is this technique applicable for all forms of spinal surgery?

No. Nor is it appropriate for all patients. While the field of minimally invasive surgery is changing rapidly, few main types of minimally invasive spine surgery currently are being performed in our clinic by our leading spinal neurosurgeon Robert Saftic, MD:

  • Disc decompression with laser for herniated disc and low-back pain
  • Endoscopic discectomy for herniated disc and spinal stenosis
  • Endoscopic discectomy with thermal annuloplasty for herniated disc and low-back pain
  • Micro-endoscopic discectomy for herniated discs
  • Interspinous spacer implant Coflex for spinal stenosis

What are the benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery?

Typically, minimally invasive spinal surgery allows for the same outcomes as conventional spine surgery. Benefits of minimally invasive back surgery include:

  • A few tiny scars instead of one large scar
  • Shorter hospital stay – a few days instead of a week
  • Reduced postoperative pain
  • Shorter recovery time – a few months instead of a year – and quicker return to daily activities, including work

What can I expect after surgery?

It is important to follow your doctor’s instructions after surgery. Although many people feel better after just a short while, you may need to take it easy per your doctor’s recommendation.

How will I know if minimally invasive spinal surgery is appropriate for me?

Every patient is evaluated individually. Consult with your doctor about the various treatment options available.

How safe is minimally invasive spine surgery?

If performed by experts in this field, minimally invasive spine surgery is as safe as “open” spine surgery in carefully selected cases.

This information is for educational purposes only and should not be relied upon as medical advice. It has not been designed to replace a physician’s independent judgment about the appropriateness or risks of a procedure for a given patient. (source: The Cleveland Clinic)

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