Before 1990, spine surgery was performed as an “open procedure”. A 5-6-inch incision was used to allow the surgeon to view the area he or she was operating on. Today, thanks to Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (MISS), this type of muscle traumatizing approach isn’t always necessary. Three surgeries that can now be performed minimally invasively are:
Minimally Invasive Lumbar DiscectomySymptom producing herniated discs in the lower back can be removed by performing a minimally invasive lumbar discectomy. During the procedure, the surgeon first makes a 1-inch incision to view the nerve-compressing herniated disc. Then, tiny instruments are used to remove the disc and pieces of bone, cartilage, and soft tissue. Following the procedure, patients report a decrease in symptoms, such as pain, weakness, and numbness in the back and legs.
Illustration 1- A lumbar discectomy
Minimally Invasive Cervical DiscectomyA cervical discectomy is essentially the same as a lumbar discectomy. The two main differences are (1) a cervical discectomy removes a herniated cervical disc (2) symptom relief occurs in the neck and upper extremities.
Minimally Invasive Lumbar FusionsA lumbar fusion can be described in three simple steps:
- Step 1. The surgeon makes a small incision and removes the nerve compressing vertebral disc(s) as well as any bone spurs that may be causing spinal nerve irritation.
- Step 2. The surgeon replaces the removed bone and cartilage with bone graft.
- Step 3. The surgeon joins the adjacent vertebrae using small screws and plates.