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What You Need to Know About Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Spine surgery was usually performed as an “open operation”– meaning that a long incision was used to open up the patient. This gave the operating surgeon a direct view of the patient’s anatomy comprising the operating area. Fortunately, advancements in medical technology mean that significantly more spinal conditions can be treated with minimally invasive surgical techniques.

Neurosurgeons performing minimally invasive spine surgery in Florida

Traditional spinal surgery ran a much greater risk of causing long-term damage to the muscles surrounding the patient’s spine. The lower risk with minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) means that patients experience less pain afterwards and are able to recover that much faster.

In Florida, spine surgery is typically recommended only after a patient has completed a period of other non-invasive treatments for their back pain. These can include physical therapy sessions and pain medication. If these are unsuccessful at relieving your painful symptoms, then you may want to consider scheduling a surgical consultation with Florida Surgery Consultants.

Please note that we won’t approve you for surgery unless the exact source of your pain and symptoms can be identified. So if it’s a herniated (slipped) disc or spinal stenosis, then it will be much simpler to approve a patient for minimally invasive spinal surgery.

What Are the Benefits of this Type of Surgery?

So you’re thinking about scheduling a consultation to discuss minimally invasive spine surgery and that can be a daunting prospect. While MISS doesn’t come with the same level of risk as traditional forms of spine surgery, you are still going under the knife and that can be a little frightening.

At Florida Surgery Consultants, we understand your concerns and we want you to be able to make this decision with complete confidence that the benefits are worth the risks. Minimally invasive spine surgery has several distinct benefits that you will want to consider.

These include:

  • Needing to spend less time in the hospital for this type of procedure. The average stay in the hospital for MISS is less than 2 days.
  • Recovering from this type of spine surgery faster than traditional invasive procedures. Smaller incisions, less blood loss and no damaged muscles all lend themselves to a faster recovery.
  • The minimal incisions required to perform the procedure means that the risk of muscles around the spine being damaged is also minimal. The larger incisions required of traditional spine surgeries meant that patients were at greater risk of muscle damage.
  • A smaller surgical incision also means that your risk of infection after the procedure are minimal to say the least. You still need to take precautions during recovery, but it is much safer overall.
  • Finally, the scar a patient will have from minimally invasive spine surgery will be minimal (for a lack of a better word). You won’t need to feel self conscious next time you are able to go to the beach or relax by the pool.

What Conditions Are Treated by Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

Florida Surgery Consultants’ spine neurosurgeons are all extensively trained and experienced at performing minimally invasive spine surgeries for patients in Florida. If you’re wondering what types of medical conditions can be treated with minimally invasive spine surgery, here are some common ones:

  • Degenerative Disc Disease
  • Herniated or slipped discs
  • Sciatica
  • Spinal Stenosis
  • Spondylolisthesis
  • Vertical Compression Fracture (VCF)
  • Spinal Infections
  • Spinal Tumors
  • Scoliosis and other spinal deformities
  • Spinal cord injuries (such as trauma from a car accident)

Can Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Reduce Back Pain?

Our neurosurgeons are discerning when it comes to determining who is and who isn’t a candidate for minimally invasive surgery. If a patient is experiencing back pain as a result of a spinal defect, they may need traditional spinal surgery instead of MISS. In general, you should talk to a surgeon who is experienced at performing both minimally invasive and traditional open spine surgeries. They will be able to give you a more robust evaluation considering your back pain symptoms and can help you pick the best course of action.

How Minimally Invasive Spine Surgeries Are Performed

Due to the location of the vertebrae, discs and spinal nerves, any surgical approach will require moving the surrounding muscle tissue out of the way. For MISS, the neurosurgeon will start by making a small incision then guiding their surgical instruments and a microscopic video camera through this opening.

Lasers are very rarely employed in the minimally invasive surgeries that we perform in Florida.

In order to further reduce the risk of causing trauma during the procedure, our neurosurgeons can employ some of the following techniques.

Using a Tubular Retractor

For this technique, a surgeon will dilate the soft tissues gradually, instead of cutting directly through the surrounding muscle. The tubes are used to keep the muscles free of the operation area and this allows the surgeon access with minimal exposure. A endoscopic or microscope camera can be run down the tube in order to assist with visibility. Once complete, the tubular retractor can be removed and the dilated tissues will be able to slide back together.

Percutaneous Placement of Instrumentation

Rods, screws and other instrumentation may need to be placed (depending on the condition of the patient) to stabilize and or immobilize the spine (for a spinal fusion procedure). Traditionally, this would require extensive muscle/tissue removal from around the spine. However, percutaneous placement (meaning “through the skin”) require small skin incisions to place the screws and rods. Underlying muscle does not need to be cut or dissected.

The surgical team will use X-ray images to place guidewires through the patient’s skin into the
With the aid of X-ray images, guidewires are placed through the skin and into the spine. Screws are places over the guidewires, following the path of the wires into their proper place. The screws also have extenders outside of the skin that are used to guide the rods. Once these have been secured to the screws, the extenders are removed.

Direct Lateral Access Routes

If the condition being treated involves the lumbar section of the spine, a neurosurgeon may decide to approach the operation area from the side of the body. There is less muscle tissue standing in their way from there and it typically results in less pain for patients during recovery.

The patient is generally placed on their side for the procedure. A tubular retractor is then attached to the side of the spine to grant access to the necessary discs and vertebrae.

The Thoracscopic Access Route

A surgeon may need to access the front of the thoracic spine depending on their patient’s health condition. This operation area is located in the chest and flanked by the heart and lungs. Traditionally, this surgery would involve opening the chest cavity via a large incision and surgeons sometimes even needed to remove a rib or two. Thanks to advancements in medical technology, thoracscopic access only requires a few small incisions. These are made and then the video camera and required instrumentation are fed in to facilitate the operation.

How Long Does It Take to Recover?

On average, a patient who has come to us for a minimally invasive spine procedure will be able to return to their normal routines within about 6 weeks. Your abilities and activities are going to be restricted for those first 6 weeks after they leave the hospital. You need to take precautions and don’t do anything that could put excessive stress on your spine.

It’s also recommended that you work with a certified physical therapist during this recovery period. These programs can help build up your strength and endurance levels which are critical to your overall recovery.

How Do You Know If You’re a Candidate?

It wasn’t that long ago that the range of conditions we could effectively treat with minimally invasive spine surgery was very limited. In 2019, we can know repair herniated discs, perform spinal fusions and address spinal deformities like scoliosis. While medical advancements have come a long way for spinal surgeries, MISS is not going to be the best decision for every person.

When it comes to the question of whether or not you are a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery, the best resource is going to be the neurosurgeon you sit down with. Our surgeons are extensively trained and experienced with MIS and traditional spine surgeries. We can answer your questions and help you make the best decision for your spine.

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