While most patients find non-surgical treatments (eg, medications, physical therapy) effectively reduce back pain or neck pain related to a spinal condition, a small percentage may need to undergo spine surgery. If you are considering spine surgery, your spine surgeon may recommend performing your procedure using minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) techniques instead of a traditional open operation.
A minimally invasive surgery involves tiny incisions, reduced blood loss and less post-operative pain. Some patients have their procedure performed in an outpatient facility or ambulatory surgery center. And if hospitalization is required, the length of stay is shorter and recovery time is typically faster. However, like any type of spine surgery, open or MISS, there are potential risks or complications you will thoughtfully discuss with your spine surgeon in advance of your surgery.
Degenerative disc disease affects the spine’s intervertebral discs, usually the discs in the cervical (neck) or lumbar (low back) spine. While DDD more commonly affects older adults, younger people can develop this condition. Often, age-related changes at the cellular level can cause discs to degenerate—gradually lose structural elasticity, flexibility, strength, capacity to absorb shock, height and shape—and may lead to a torn, bulging or herniated disc.
A herniated disc is sometimes called a slipped or ruptured disc. A disc herniates when the intervertebral disc’s inner gel-like material (nucleus pulposus) breaks through the disc’s tough outer tire-like layer (annulus fibrosus). The disc’s interior matter can spread and press on nearby spinal nerves, causing inflammation and pain.
The term sciatica refers to a group of symptoms that may develop if the sciatic nerve is compressed. The sciatic nerve is the longest nerve in the body. It runs downward from the low back into the buttock, down the back of the thigh and below the knee sometimes into a foot. Characteristically, sciatica affects one side of the body and causes pain below the knee. Pain may be accompanied by sensations of numbness and tingling. Some people describe the pain as “electric” or “searing” in nature.
Scoliosis and other types of spinal deformity are characterized by abnormal spinal curves that can vary in size and shape. Normal curvature of spine, called lordosis and kyphosis, naturally occur at different levels or regions of the spinal column. However, scoliosis and/or excessive lordotic or kyphotic curves (eg, hyperkyphosis) are abnormal types of spinal curvatures that can affect balance, flexibility and spinal alignment.
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of one or more nerve passageways (neuroforamen) and/or spinal canal in the spine. This condition more commonly affects the cervical (neck) and/or lumbar (low back) spine. It often affects older adults and may occur when a bone spur and/or debris-like tissue compresses a nearby nerve and/or the spinal cord (potentially serious). Symptoms may include pain, numbness, tingling sensations and/or weakness.
Spondylolisthesis develops when one vertebral body slides forward over the one beneath. The severity of the “slip” is graded on a progressive scale from Grade 1 (least severe) to Grade 5 (most severe). Spondylolisthesis usually develops in the lumbar spine (low back), and can be stable (not moving) or progressive (continues to slide).
Vertebral compression fractures are a common type of spinal fracture that may occur as a result of trauma and/or osteoporosis. The hallmark symptom of a VCF is sudden pain that can be severe. Vertebroplasty and balloon kyphoplasty are two types of minimally invasive treatments for VCFs.
Spinal infections can develop after a surgical procedure or arise on their own. Infections can affect different parts of your spine—for example, some infections develop in a vertebral body while others may affect an intervertebral disc. Constant back pain without prior injury is a red flag symptom of spinal infection.
A spinal tumor is an abnormal tissue growth that can develop anywhere in the spine. Tumors can be malignant (cancerous) or benign (non-cancerous). A tumor that originates in the spine is called a primary spinal tumor, and a tumor that travels to the spine from another location (such as lung or breast) is called a metastatic spinal tumor.
Many of the same surgical procedures performed “open” can be done minimally invasively. Some include the following:
Learn more at the SpineUniverse Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Center.
It's important to note that not all spine conditions can be treated using minimally invasive approaches. For example, some spinal infections, scoliotic curves, or complex multi-level spinal procedures cannot be treated minimally invasively.
If minimally invasive spine surgery is an option for you, your neurosurgeon or orthopaedic spine surgeon will explain the type of surgery he or she recommends. In most cases, MISS can effectively and safely treat your spinal condition (eg, back pain) with additional benefits—namely less post-operative pain, a shorter hospital stay, and a speedier road to recovery.
Because of rapid advances in technology, many spine disorders now can be treated with minimally invasive surgery, so talk to your doctor or surgeon about your questions about minimally invasive spine surgery.