The Many Advantages of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

The Many Advantages of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

No one ever wants to have surgery, but most people are especially anxious about spine surgery. Thanks to today's advanced, minimally invasive techniques, you can feel more confident about spine surgery, knowing it has fewer risks, a faster recovery, and can often be an outpatient procedure.

As a board-certified neurosurgeon, Richard B. Kim, MD, repairs most spine conditions using minimally invasive surgery, giving patients relief from their back pain and helping them return to an active life.

What makes minimally invasive spine surgery the preferred approach? Here's a rundown of its many advantages.

Tiny incisions make the difference

The length of the incision is the defining difference between minimally invasive surgery and traditional open surgery.

Open spine surgery typically requires a 5- to 6-inch incision that cuts through all layers of tissue, including the muscles. Then the surgeon pulls back the tissues, creating an opening that allows them to reach your spine and operate on it. This technique causes significant tissue damage and leads to more blood loss.

When performing minimally invasive surgery, we make incisions that are about one-half inch. We may need to make two incisions to accommodate the instruments needed for your procedure, but each one is small.

We get a magnified view of your spine using an endoscope or surgical microscope. Endoscopes are designed to fit through the small incision. Then they provide lighting and carry a high-definition video camera that sends images of your spine to a monitor.

Surgical microscopes obtain magnified images from outside the incision. These highly advanced devices are designed to provide an exceptional view of your spine without needing a wide incision.

Muscle preservation promotes healing

During open surgery, the incision cuts through your muscles. Then they’re stripped away from their natural attachment to bones. As a result, you have substantial muscle injury that causes more pain after surgery. The muscle damage also prolongs your recovery because you have to wait for the muscle to heal.

When we perform minimally invasive spine surgery, we don't cut the muscles during the incision, and we certainly don't tear them from bones. We preserve your muscles using a tubular retractor. 

After making a small incision, we carefully guide the retractor between muscle fibers, creating a tunnel to the spine. Then we use progressively larger tubes to gently stretch the fibers, creating the opening needed for surgical instruments. The retractor tube stays in place and we simply insert the instruments through that opening.

As soon as we finish your surgery, we remove the retractor and the muscle fibers spring back to their normal position.

Hospital stays are shorter

We do some minimally invasive surgeries as outpatient procedures, allowing you to go home the same day. But even if you need an inpatient procedure, your hospital stay is shorter compared to open surgery.

Other benefits gained

Small incisions and muscle preservation cause dramatically less tissue damage, and less trauma is the reason for other benefits.

When you get minimally invasive spine surgery, you have:

If you have an outpatient procedure, you may only need local anesthesia. As a result, you don't face the standard risks associated with general anesthesia.

Minimally invasive surgery means better results

Just in case the advantages already listed aren't enough, here's one more: You get better results after minimally invasive surgery.

A group of neurosurgeons at several well-known universities studied nearly 4,500 patients who had a minimally invasive or open lumbar fusion for degenerative spine disease.

Those who had a minimally invasive procedure had significantly less pain and disability at three and 12 months (after surgery) compared to the patients who had open surgery.

If you have questions about spine surgery or would like to schedule a consultation, call Richard B. Kim, MD, or book an appointment online today.

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