Back surgery was once a dreaded diagnosis. And while those words may still cause trepidation on the part of the patient, advances in surgical techniques mean that there are now several procedures that produce impressive results. And these operations also yield relatively few complications and vastly improved recovery times.
In the past back or spine surgery was associated with a long and painful recovery process. Thanks to today’s cutting-edge advances in both surgery techniques and equipment, that is no longer the case. And while spinal surgery is still a delicate and sophisticated procedure, Longstreet Clinic neurosurgeons are proud to offer several treatment options that can provide lasting relief from lower back pain, neck pain, scoliosis, or a herniated disc without the fears of the past.
Benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery
- Smaller incision (sometimes as small as a few millimeters)
- Less muscle & tissue damage
- Faster surgery
- Faster recovery time & less rehabilitation
- Less blood loss
- Reduced pain & need for pain meds
- Many of these procedures are even performed on an outpatient basis, which means patients can go home the same day of surgery.
In the traditional open approach, a larger incision is made in order to retract the muscle and reach the spine. While this approach is often successful, it involves more pain and blood loss, and a longer recovery.
Thanks to advanced technologies – such as spinal navigation and robots – neurosurgeons no longer need to cut through muscle in order to reach the spinal column. Instead, neurosurgeons may now utilize methods such as a tubular retractor, as well as an endoscope or microscope, to perform procedures with a minimum of incisions to surrounding tissues.
Longstreet neurosurgeons are also able to place any necessary rods or screws percutaneously (meaning through the skin). By doing this, surgeons impart these stabilizing elements with a minimum of incisions into the surrounding muscle.
Who is a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery?
There are a several types of back conditions which are degenerative, chronic of severe enough to warrant surgery via minimally invasive procedure:
- Chronic sciatica – Stemming from a compressed sciatic nerve, this can be debilitating, as it shoots from your pelvis down the entire leg.
- Scoliosis – A curvature of the spine can be either miniscule or pronounced, but even a miniscule curvature can produce chronic conditions over time if not addressed
- Nerve pain/weakness/numbness associated with herniated or bulging discs
- Degenerative disc disease – Occurs due to age and can be associated with bone spurs but may eventually compromise the disc.
- Bone spurs – These growths can occur inside the spinal column and compress surrounding nerves, leading to chronic pain and sensation.
- Spinal tumors – Removing a tumor from this region, which controls so many bodily functions, requires the greatest of care.
- Stenosis – The narrowing of the spinal cavity can prove dangerous to the spinal cord and surrounding nerves if it becomes too pronounced.
If you suffer from any of these conditions, it may be worth talking with your care provider about the possibility of surgery. And Longstreet Clinic neurosurgeons are always willing to conduct a thorough examination process to help you determine whether minimally invasive spinal surgery is the right option for you.
Types of minimally invasive spinal procedures
Minimally invasive surgical options offer a wide variety of procedures and treatments to skilled surgeons, including these common approaches:
This is treatment of a compromised disc. When the rubbery outer casing of a natural disc becomes weakened, the soft tissue inside extrudes — or herniates — beyond the outer ring. This herniated material can compress the nerves passing by, thus causing pain. If surgical treatment is recommended to trim or remove the herniated disc, it may be possible to perform this procedure with minimally invasive surgery using tubular dilators and a microscope or endoscope.
This entails replacement of the natural disc in the spinal column with a synthetic equivalent that can restore full range of motion, while taking pressure off the surrounding nerves. This synthetic disc will stay implanted long term. Like the Discectomy, it may be possible to perform the arthroplasty with minimally invasive surgery using tubular dilators and a microscope or endoscope.
Spinal stenosis is a narrowing of the vertebral canal. A common condition that can result in compression of the nerves, it can produce a variety of symptoms, including pain, numbness and muscle weakness. If surgery is recommended, it may be possible to remove the bone and soft tissues causing the nerve compression through a minimally invasive approach using tubular dilators and a microscope or endoscope. The more common decompressive procedures include laminectomy and foraminotomy.
Transforaminal Lumbar Interbody Fusion (TLIF)
This is a minimally invasive technique that is performed for patients with refractory mechanical low back and radicular pain associated with spondylolisthesis, degenerative disc disease and recurrent disc herniation. The procedure is performed from the back (posterior) with the patient on his or her stomach. Utilizing two small incisions, screws and rods are placed between two or more vertebral levels. The intervertebral disc is removed, and a cage filled with bone is placed in that void with the goal of stabilizing the levels affected.
Do not wait if you have a spinal problem
Rarely do chronic or severe back and neck problems resolve on their own. Luckily, many of these issues may be resolved by non-surgical treatments, such as physical therapy or lifestyle changes. However, there are some instances when surgery may be the best option to produce real and lasting relief.
As always, consult your primary care provider before seeking further treatment, but know that Longstreet Clinic neurosurgeons are ready and available to talk over all options. And our cutting-edge examination technology will help you to make the best decision for your spinal health. In some cases, minimally invasive surgery may not be as safe or effective as traditional open surgery, so always consult your doctor about your options.
For more information about minimally invasive spinal surgery, contact Longstreet Clinic Neurosurgery at 678-207-4100.