June 22, 2015

“What is minimally invasive spine surgery?” & other important questions

Neck, Back and Spine

Before having back surgery, patients have a lot of questions. OrthoIndy spine specialist Dr. Gregory Poulter answers some of the most common things patients ask before their operation, including “What is minimally invasive spine surgery?” and more.

Q&A with a spine surgeon

What is minimally invasive spine surgery?

Minimally invasive spine surgery does not correspond to any one particular surgery but refers to a surgical philosophy and the techniques that have been developed with this philosophy in mind.

The idea behind minimally invasive spine surgery is to perform a surgery with the least amount of disruption to surrounding tissues as possible, while providing a procedure that is just as safe and effective as one performed with a traditional approach.

Why make an incision any larger than what is needed to perform a procedure safely and effectively?

Minimally invasive surgery was made possible by the advent of technologies that allow us to access the spine and hold tissues out of the way without damaging them.

As these technologies have been refined over the years, minimally invasive spine surgery has become more common.

What types of spine surgery can be performed with a minimally invasive technique?

Minimally invasive techniques have been developed to replace most of the traditional spine surgeries. Microdiscectomies, laminectomies and fusions are commonly performed as minimally invasive surgeries.

There are advanced techniques for scoliosis and fracture surgery as well. This is not a complete list.

In general, spine surgery has advanced greatly in the last 10 years. Much of the improvement has come from minimizing the disruption of surgery.

Can all spine operations be performed as minimally invasive spine surgery?

The first priority should be that a patient has a safe and effective procedure. Every consideration should be made to minimize the impact of a surgery and reduce complications. Often this includes the use of a newer minimally invasive technique.

While most common conditions can be effectively cared for with minimally invasive surgery, there are times when the nature of the problem warrants a more traditional larger incision.

Do all spine surgeons perform minimally invasive spine surgery?

Minimally invasive techniques are new to spine surgery and there are many surgeons who completed their training prior to the advent of these procedures.

As a result, the field of spine surgery is in transition with some surgeons being very comfortable offering these techniques while others have yet to include them in their practice.

Is minimally invasive spine surgery better than traditional surgery?

As mentioned before, minimally invasive spine surgery is not one technique but a variety of techniques. However, in general it has been demonstrated that post-operative pain and time for recovery is reduced by minimally invasive techniques.

What about spinal fusions?

For spinal fusions, minimally invasive surgery has shown to decrease the risk of infection and other complications while providing the same or better success rate for the fusion. For these reasons, minimally invasive techniques are considered an advancement in spine surgery.

How do I know if a surgeon is trained in minimally invasive surgery?

This is difficult. At this time there is no specific training or certification in minimally invasive spine surgery. You can research surgeons in your area that offer these techniques. If you visit with one, ask them about the techniques they offer and their comfort level performing them.

Schedule an appointment

Your well-being is important to us. Call us at 317.802.2883 to schedule an appointment or make an appointment request online.

If your injury or condition is recent, you can walk right into one of our OrthoIndy Urgent Care locations for immediate care. For rehabilitation and physical therapy, no referral is needed to see one of our physical therapists.

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