What are minimally invasive approaches to spine

Minimally invasive spine surgery by definition are techniques that utilize small skin incisions, using specialized instruments to work around the spine and achieve the same surgical goals that traditional open surgery would. They aim at minimising the ‘collateral damage’.

Traditional spine surgery have been open, in which the area being operated is opened with a long incision allowing the surgeon to view and access the surgical site. Technological advancement and surgeon expertise have made possible for these procedures to be much less invasive, or as they are called minimally invasive procedures. These are still in development world over.

Minimally invasive spine surgeries are one of the major development in spine treatment today. These procedures require an extensive training by the surgeon and staff. They also call for a special skill set and advanced technical equipment to be done successfully.

Minimally invasive approaches have proved to be a boon for patients, as they allow much complicated surgeries to be done with much less damage. Some advantages are:

  • Less infection rates
  • Faster recovery
  • Less collateral damage
  • Less painful
  • Less bleeding
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Less scarring

Minimally invasive spine procedures make use of specialised retractors and working instruments for decompression of neural structures and instrumentation of the spine. The surgeon also uses a microscope to view important structures of spine.

Two common minimally invasive procedures are:

  1. Discectomy– A discectomy is the surgical removal of material that is pressing a nerve or spinal cord due to herniated or slipped disk. Surgeons use retractors and a microscope to remove the bulging disk. Discectomy is completed using general anesthesia.
  2. Spinal fusion– Spinal fusion is performed to permanently join two or more motion segments in the spine. A graft / cage can be placed across the anterior inter body column and pedicle screws in addition or in isolation to fuse the two bones together and avoid movement between them.