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Pros and Cons of Minimally Invasive Surgery


Minimally invasive surgery describes procedures that seek to limit the disruption of surrounding tissue at the surgical site. Made possible by advancements in medical technology and the continuing development of surgical techniques, these types of procedures offer numerous advantages to patients. This is especially true for spine procedures, where traditional open back surgery is associated with large incisions, overnight hospitalization and a long and difficult recovery period. 

However, like any type of surgery, minimally invasive surgery is still a big decision and requires education on the part of patients. We’ve created the following guide to help you better understand the pros of minimally invasive surgery, particularly as it applies to back pain relief. We’re also sharing what anyone should be aware of for minimally invasive procedures and why it may not be the best form of treatment for certain patients. 

The USA Spine Care team is here to help and answer any questions you may have about your treatment options. We’re committed to helping you achieve a quick recovery and achieve back pain relief. Don’t hesitate to reach out. 

When should patients consider minimally invasive spine surgery?

For most conditions that require patients to seek back pain relief, surgery is a last-resort consideration. Conditions such as spinal stenosis, bulging discs, herniated discs and spinal arthritis often respond positively to conservative therapies such as rest, over-the-counter medication, physical therapy and pain-relieving injections. 

Surgery should only be considered in cases where conservative options have been thoroughly exhausted without bringing the relief necessary for a good quality of life. Patients should be experiencing moderate to severe pain that causes mobility problems and interferes with daily activities. There also needs to be an operable condition that has been positively diagnosed. 

What types of procedures can be performed with minimally invasive techniques

Today, a very large number of spine procedures that treat degenerative spine conditions and promote back pain relief can be performed as minimally invasive procedures

Minimally invasive spine surgery can be broadly divided into two general categories:

  • Minimally invasive decompression —  These procedures achieve back pain relief by accessing the spine and removing anatomy that is contributing to painful nerve compression. Specific types of procedures include discectomy, to remove part of a bulging or herniated disc, or a foraminotomy to remove anatomy that is narrowing small entrances where nerve roots leave the spinal column. Surgeons can perform these types of procedures with a very small incision and typically involve a short recovery period. 
  • Minimally invasive stabilization — Also known as spinal fusion, these procedures can treat cases of advanced spinal degeneration causing severe instability in the spine. Although not all fusion procedures can be performed with minimally invasive techniques, procedures such as lateral lumbar interbody fusion and many cervical (upper) spine fusion surgeries can now be offered on an outpatient basis. 

Although minimally invasive spine surgery is sometimes called laser surgery, not all procedures involve a laser. Usually, a laser is used in a limited capacity in laser surgery, such as to ablate nerve roots in a procedure known as facet thermal ablation

Advantages of minimally invasive surgery include a smaller incision, outpatient procedure and quick recovery

By limiting the incision size of a procedure, minimally invasive surgery can result in reduced scarring and a faster healing time at the incision site. However, incision size is not what offers minimally invasive surgery all of its advantages. Surgeons also use muscle sparing techniques that spread apart soft tissue, which can reduce the amount of healing time and promote a quick recovery. 

Because of this, minimally invasive surgery can also be performed as an outpatient procedure. This allows patients to avoid overnight hospitalization and limit exposure to health care-based infection. By going to an ambulatory surgery center that specializes in outpatient procedures, patients will significantly reduce exposure to sick or infected patients compared to a hospital.  

Minimally invasive surgery can also result in a reduction in hospital-associated costs. 

Not all patients are candidates for minimally invasive surgery and not all procedures can be performed with a minimally invasive approach 

To become a candidate for minimally invasive surgery, patients should expect to undergo a thorough screening and evaluation. Although there is typically not an age restriction for minimally invasive procedures, certain conditions may require hospitalization to monitor for complications. 

Additionally, not all spine procedures are able to be performed as a minimally invasive surgery. This includes multi-level fusions and extensive corrective procedures for severe spinal deformity related to conditions such as scoliosis.  

Reach out to USA Spine Care today to learn about minimally invasive surgery

If you’d like to learn more about the advantages of minimally invasive surgery and whether you are a potential candidate, contact USA Spine Care today. Our experienced team has decades of combined experience helping patients achieve lasting back pain relief. At our state-of-the-art outpatient centers, you can expect the highest level of patient care and a streamlined experience.

Minimally Invasive Surgery Quick Answers

What are the advantages of minimally invasive surgery?

By using microtechnology and special techniques, minimally invasive surgeons are able to access the surgical site with a smaller incision and less disruption to surrounding tissue. The result is advantages that include the potential for an outpatient procedure, a quick recovery compared to traditional procedures and reduced risk for complications. Minimally invasive surgery can also be performed in a shorter period of time 

What is considered minimally invasive surgery?

Any surgical procedure has some level of invasiveness. Minimally invasive procedures are designed to limit incision size and the extent of cutting soft tissue such as muscles, tendons and ligaments. This is accomplished with visualization technology such as an arthroscope or fluoroscopy, as well as specialized microsurgical equipment.

What are minimally invasive surgical instruments?

Minimally invasive surgical instruments are any specialized surgical equipment that enables the possibility of a minimally invasive procedure. This can include handheld instruments, inflation devices, scopes and visual equipment, cutting instruments such as scalpels, guiding devices, and electrosurgical equipment. The type of surgical equipment required for each procedure depends on the specific nature of the surgery. 

Does minimally invasive surgery require anesthesia?

Whether local or general anesthesia is used, minimally invasive surgery typically requires anesthesia. Minimally invasive spine surgery will usually involve general anesthesia so the surgeon can perform the procedure. For certain minor procedures, local anesthesia may only be required.

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