Minimally Invasive Spinal Fusion Is Bringing Backs into the Future
The traditional “open” spinal surgeries of yesteryear came with a laundry list of pitfalls – from long incisions to extensive and painful recoveries. Luckily, the advent of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (MISS) has introduced new possibilities for patients who haven’t responded to more conservative methods, such as medications and physical therapy.1 A 2017 article published in the U.S. National Library of Medicine, found that in the past two decades there has been a higher demand in patient requests for MIS surgery and that traditional open surgeries have gradually been replaced by these less invasive procedures.2
According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons, all minimally invasive spinal surgeries utilize smaller incisions and cause less damage to the surrounding muscles and tissue. One such surgery is Spinal Fusion. Utilized to remedy a variety of conditions including spinal stenosis, scoliosis, spinal tumors, and degenerative disc disease3 (to name a few), this procedure rectifies complications targeting the small bones of the spine, known as vertebrae.
Understanding the procedure itself helps bring to light what makes minimally invasive spinal fusion the superior choice for so many patients. Unlike open surgery – which requires the surgeon to “retract”, or pull the muscle back to allow a view of the spine, this new technique utilizes a tubular retractor to burrow a tunnel to the root of the problem.
Inserted through a small incision in the skin, this device makes way through the soft tissues and spinal column – offering a tiny passageway through which damaged bone or disc material can be removed, and screws for the fusion can be inserted. This unique approach allows surgeons to sidestep muscle disruption that sometimes led to ancillary pain post-operation with earlier surgical procedures.
The results are astounding. Rather than making a lengthy incision, some MIS surgeries can result in scars shorter than one inch – which contributes to a much swifter recovery.4 A study published by the National Institutes of Health reported that minimally invasive spinal surgery techniques may reduce postoperative wound infections as much as 10-fold, compared with other large, modern series of open spinal surgery.5 While there is always a risk of infection with any surgery, MIS procedures cause less blood loss6; this means your hospital stay will be significantly shorter. Some patients have the procedure out-patient and may return home the very same day, but typically within 2 days.1
Understandably, getting back to life is a big concern for those of us who decide to undergo surgery. MIS procedures allow you to resume your normal activities and daily diet soon after your procedure. One of the most crucial aspects of fusion surgeries is modifying your movements following the operation to keep your spine properly aligned. Your Orthopedic specialist will provide detailed instructions about this, as it can take several months before the bone is completely fused.7 Until that time, low impact activities such as walking will be tolerated; however, you’ll want to steer clear of rigorous activity.
In recent years, cutting-edge tools such as Endoscopy and fluoroscopy have made placement of implants and screws much more precise, leading to a drastic reduction in post-op pain. Any discomfort you do feel should subside with the use of pain medications prescribed by your doctor. If you suffer from a chronic spinal condition, it’s time to see how Minimally Invasive Spinal Fusion can get you back on track, faster.
Founded over 50 years ago, Watauga Orthopaedics is a venerated business in the field of orthopedic medicine. As a team of specialists focused on diagnosing and treating musculoskeletal disorders, their staff takes pride in offering comprehensive and timely care. For more information, or to schedule a consultation, call (423) 282-9011.