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What Is Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

Recent technological advances have made strides in the treatment of spinal conditions by using a MINIMALLY INVASIVE SURGICAL APPROACH.

Open Spine Surgery might be the best surgical approach for your specific condition. However, if a minimally invasive approach is an appropriate option for you, then you may experience these benefits:

  • Smaller incision and scar
  • Decreased blood loss
  • Less length of stay in the hospital
  • Less pain medication needed while in the hospital

In a traditional, Open Spine Surgery, the Surgeon makes an incision and retracts, or pulls, the muscles to the side to get a clear view of the spine. The surgeon can then access and remove diseased and damaged bone or intervertebral discs.

With MINIMALLY INVASIVE SPINE SURGERY, surgeons can achieve the same operative goals as an open procedure, but in a less invasive way.Minimally Invasive Surgery can be percutaneous (through the skin) or mini-open (operating through a small incision).

How Is Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Performed?

MINIMALLY INVASIVE SPINE procedures are usually performed using general anesthesia, using special tools called tubular retractors. During the procedure, a small incision is made and the tubular retractor is inserted, creating a tunnel to the small area where the issue is in the spine. The tubular retractor holds the muscles open and is kept in place throughout the procedure.

The surgeon then accesses the spine using small instruments that fit through the center of the tubular retractor. Any bone or disk material that is removed exits through the retractor and any necessary devices such as screws or rods are inserted through the retractor.

In order to see where to place the incision and insert the retractor, the surgeon is typically guided by Fluoroscopy. This method displays real-time x-ray images of the patient's spine on a screen throughout the surgery. The surgeon may use an operating microscope to magnify the view through the retractor.

At the end of the procedure, the tubular retractor is removed and the incision is closed.


Even though Spine Surgeries can be done using a Minimally Invasive technique, it is still surgery and therefore not without risk. Potential risks associated with surgery include:

  • Anesthesia complications
  • Allergic reactions
  • Adverse effects due to undiagnosed medical problems, such as silent heart disease.
  • Injury to nerves and blood vessels can also occur.
  • Before the surgery, there is no sure way that your surgeon can know how your nerves will respond post operatively. So there is a risk that your pain may not improve with surgery, or your pain may only partly improve.
  • During minimally invasive spine surgery, the surgeon may have to convert to an open surgery if circumstances require.
  • Infection following surgery, which may require antibiotics and additional surgery.
  • Vein thrombosis (blood clot) or Embolus (the clot breaks away and causes a blockage of blood flow in the lung).

These conditions can lead to death, but dying from these conditions is rare.

Because there are risks with general anesthesia, our Surgeon and medical staff will carefully monitor you during your surgery and recovery.

Am I A Candidate For Surgery?

Your eligibility for Spinal Surgery can only be determined by your Surgeon. Before your Surgeon agrees to surgery as an option, he will want to make sure that you have exhausted nonsurgical treatment options. 

Your Surgeon will determine if you are a candidate for Spinal Surgery once he has received your full medical file and evaluated the following:

  • A history of persistent leg or arm pain, weakness, and limitation of daily activities that has not gotten better with at least 4 weeks of nonsurgical treatment.
  • Results of a physical examination that show you have weakness, loss of motion, or abnormal sensation (feeling) that is likely to get better after surgery.
  • Diagnostic testing, such as MAGNETIC RESONANCE IMAGING (MRI), COMPUTED TOMOGRAPHY (CT), DISCOGRAM or MYELOGRAM indicating you would respond well to surgery.