All You Need To Know About Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (MISS) is becoming an increasingly common spine procedure of choice in the United States. Since MISS reduces the risk of surgical complications and substantially decreases recovery time, more and more surgeons prefer this approach over conventional surgery. The primary aim of minimally invasive spine surgery is to regularize the spinal joints or vertebral bones and release pressure applied to the spinal nerves, usually because of conditions like bone spurs, spinal instability, spinal tumors, or scoliosis. Minimally invasive spinal surgeries have been successfully performed for the thoracic spine, the lumbar region and the cervical spine since the 1990s.

The reduced trauma to the soft tissues and muscles as a result of MISS (in comparison with other open procedures) offers some potential benefits, including:

1. Better cosmetic results due to smaller skin incisions

2. Less blood loss from surgery

3. Lower risk of postoperative pain and infection

4. Lower risk of muscle damage since zero or minimum muscle cutting is needed

5. Quicker recovery from surgery and less rehabilitation time required

6. Reduced reliance on painkillers after the surgery

However, as with any surgical procedure, MISS too has certain risks associated with it, some of which include:

1. Unexpected loss of blood during the surgical procedure

2. Potential adverse reaction to the anesthetic

3. Localized infections, regardless of how small the incisions

And, even though rare, there is always a small possibility the initial MISS will remain unfinished, thus requiring a second surgical procedure or even a complete open surgery.

Which Conditions Does MISS Procedures Help Treat?

1. Spinal tumors

2. Herniated disc

3. Spinal instability

4. Spinal infections

5. Vertebral compression fractures

6. Degenerative disc disease

7. Spinal disabilities like scoliosis

8. Lumbar spinal stenosis

How are Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Performed?

Minimally invasive spine surgery can be mini-open (done through a small incision) or percutaneous (through the skin). Decompression procedures and spinal fusions are carried out using special tools known as tubular retractors. During the surgical procedure, the surgeon makes a small cut and injects a tubular retractor, thus making a passageway to the small area when the spinal issue pertains. What the tubular retractor does is hold the muscles open and keep them in place throughout the entire procedure.

The surgeons evaluate the spine with the help of small instruments that fit in the tubular retractor’s center. Any disk or bone material that is taken out exits via the retractor, and the surgeons implant any important devices, like rods or screws, via the retractor.

Surgeons use fluoroscopy, which shows the patient’s real-time x-ray images of the patient’s spine during the entire surgery process, which helps him/her decide where to make the incision and insert the retractor. The surgeon may also use an operating microscope to enlarge the view through the retractor. Once the surgical procedure is over, the tubular retractor is taken out, and the surgeon closes the incision.