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What Is Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (MISS) is an alternative to the traditional surgical procedures performed to treat disorders of the spine.

Utilizing smaller incisions and special tools, minimally invasive spine surgery offers less postoperative pain, quicker recovery, and more outpatient options. Complications and risks such as infections and blood loss are also reduced by this procedure style.

How Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Works

Traditional surgery, often called open surgery, is conducted by making a long incision down the back. The muscles and soft tissues around the spine are moved away so a surgeon can focus on operating the spine itself.

With MISS, a smaller incision is made and a surgeon will not need to cut through the soft tissues, ligaments, and muscles. Instead, a surgeon will insert a device through the incision called a tubular retractor. 

The tubular retractor is a stiff, tube-shaped tool that creates a tunnel to the problem area of the spine by pushing aside the muscles and tissues. This tunnel serves as a pathway for the surgeon to push small tools through the tunnel, such as a special operating microscope. A surgeon will also be able to refer to real time x-ray imaging as they work on the spine.

The Two Goals of Spinal Surgery

Spinal surgery, whether open or minimally invasive, has two basic goals: decompression and stabilization.

  • Decompression: This goal is focused on removing tissues that compress nerve structures such as the spinal nerve root and the spinal cord. In most cases, compression is caused by bone spurs or fragments from a herniated disc.
  • Stabilization: This goal addresses the abnormal movement in one or more segments in the spine. The theory is that if these parts are stabilized and are unable to move, they will no longer cause pain in the back or neck. Spinal instrumentation or spinal fusion are the modalities used to stabilize the spine.

Patients would commonly need to address these problems for cases of:

  • Herniated disk
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal deformities
  • Spinal instability
  • Spondylolysis
  • Fractured vertebra
  • Spinal infection
  • Spinal tumor

Types of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Four types of MISS which patients may choose to undergo are discectomy, foraminotomy, laminectomy, spinal fusion, and spinal instrumentation.

  1. Discectomy: Discectomy describes the surgical removal of material pressing on a nerve root or the spinal cord.
  2. Foraminotomy: Foraminotomy describes the procedure that widens the tunnel in your back, where the nerve roots leave the spinal cord.
  3. Laminectomy: A laminectomy removes the lamina, or the back part of the vertebra that covers and protects your spinal canal, which may compress the nerves.
  4. Spinal Fusion: Spinal fusion utilizes bone grafting techniques to permanently join bones together in the spine to limit movement.
  5. Spinal Instrumentation: After spinal fusion surgery, spinal instrumentation keeps segments of the spine immobile by inserting screws and rods to keep the bones aligned while they heal.

Should You Undergo MISS?

Less than 5% of people with back pain or neck pain would actually need to undergo spine surgery, as doctors would recommend non-surgical options first. Non-surgical options may include medication, physical therapy, or spinal injections.

However, even if spine surgery is usually considered as a last resort, a patient should consider undergoing minimally invasive spine surgery if the prescribed non-surgical treatments do not reduce symptoms or alleviate pain in 3 to 6 months.

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery at CTSI

A healthy back is essential to living a healthy and active life. If you feel like your spine is getting in the way of you enjoying your life to the fullest, consult with us at the Central Texas Spine Institute.

With our decades of expertise, we can help you keep your body in top condition. The Central Texas Spine Institute offers our patients treatments tailored to their case, whether they need a conservative modality or minimally invasive surgery. As one of the top spine centers in the US, CTSI only uses the latest techniques in minimally invasive surgery which lessens risks and minimizes recovery time. Book an appointment with us today to learn more.