Will Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Ease Your Back Pain?
Some types of spine surgery can be performed with minimally invasive techniques that result in a shorter hospital stay and less pain. Explore whether or not this could be an option for you.
Do you need surgery for a back problem? Some conditions, including certain types of disc herniation and degeneration, can be addressed with minimally invasive spine surgery.
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“We use very small incisions with specialized instruments. This means that the procedure is often less painful than traditional spine surgery and leaves relatively small scars,” says Thomas Mroz, MD, Co-Director of Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Spine Health.
Other major advantages include:
There are various approaches to minimally invasive spine surgery, which employ different tools.
These include an endoscopic approach, which employs a tiny camera and light attached to a flexible tube or surgery guided by an operating microscope. Lasers are used in some lumbar disc herniation cases, but not for most types of minimally invasive spine surgeries.
Minimally invasive techniques often work well in treating:
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Not everyone is a good candidate for minimally invasive surgery. Many patients who have back pain associated with a spinal defect will require traditional open surgery, Dr. Mroz says. In traditional open surgery, the surgeon makes a larger incision and moves the muscles aside in order to work on the spine.
“Also, people with multi-level stenosis (a narrowing of the open spaces in your spine), previous spinal surgery or severe deformities cannot usually be treated with minimally invasive spinal surgery,” Dr. Mroz says.
Whether your surgeon will use minimally invasive or traditional open spine surgery, there are several things you can do before and after surgery to make your recovery easier.
Also, patients who are going to have spine surgery should not smoke.
“Smoking has major implications, not only for fusion surgery but also for your health in general,” says Dr. Mroz.
“We typically won’t perform a fusion on a patient who continues to smoke because we need a window of one to three months where the patient is smoke-free before the surgery. And, for fusion surgeries, the patient has to remain smoke-free for one year for the biological fusion to occur,” he says.
Dr. Mroz says that, although the allure of MISS may be strong, you should keep in mind that these are newer technologies.
“It’s important to pick an experienced surgeon who does minimally invasive surgeries as well as open surgeries in order to get a more robust evaluation and treatment plan,” he says.
“The same technique can’t be used for every problem, so you need to really think critically about the surgeon you’re choosing. Ultimately, you want a good outcome so you don’t have to go back for another surgery five years down the road. You want your surgery to be durable over time.”