Invasive vs. Minimally Invasive Back Surgery

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When back surgery becomes a possible source of relief for your pain or recurring discomfort, you will have a choice between a minimally invasive procedure and a traditional open procedure, which is a more invasive type of surgery. Understanding the differences between each approach to back surgery may help you make a more confident and informed decision about your procedure.

Benefits of Minimally Invasive Back Surgery

Minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) involves the use of special tools and a small camera to allow the spine doctor to see what's going on inside without the need to pull muscles aside (retraction). Instead of one incision, multiple smaller incisions are made to insert the instruments and the tube with the camera. Fusions and decompression procedures performed this way often result involve few complications, less blood loss, and a faster recovery time.

When Traditional Back Surgery Make Sense

In some cases, it makes more sense to perform a traditional or invasive procedure to correct a problem with the spine or supporting discs. For instance, a patient with a spine that's unstable in more than one location wouldn't be a good candidate for a minimally invasive procedure. Open surgery also makes sense if the affected part of the spine is an area that's difficult to reach or if there are special circumstances that require a more direct approach. Such procedures may also be more effective if a lot of hardware (e.g., screws, rods, clamps) has to be installed as part of the surgery.

Surgery Outcomes

There are many advantages to having back surgery with minimally invasive procedures involving smaller incisions and surgical techniques that avoid disturbing nearby muscles. Yet the average outcome for minimally invasive back surgery and open surgery is about the same since several factors will determine surgical outcome, including overall health of a patient and the extent of the issue with the spine or supporting discs and joints. Spinal fusion surgery, the most common back surgery performed in the United States, is considered a reliable procedure when performed either with minimally invasive techniques or as a traditional open surgery.

A spine doctor will answer your questions, explain the pros and cons of all possible procedures that may ease or eliminate your pain, and determine whether or not you're a good candidate for a minimally invasive procedure. If a more invasive (open) operation is necessary for your condition, take comfort in knowing most common types of back surgery have become more reliable due to advances in technology.