What To Expect When Having Minimally-Invasive Spine Surgery

Traditional Open Surgery Approach Vs Minimally-Invasive Spine Surgery

Minimally invasive spine surgery is an alternative way of performing surgery. In the “traditional” open surgery approach, your surgeon makes a long incision in your skin to allow your surgeon a clear view of the surgical site. This causes a relatively large amount of muscle and surrounding soft tissue to be spread, pulled apart, or removed from the bone causing more muscle damage and pain after surgery.

In minimally invasive surgery, your surgeon makes one or much smaller incisions in your skin. A small metal tube is inserted through the incision, allowing the surgeon to operate through a small surgical field.  Many types of spinal surgery can be performed in a minimally invasive manner such as spinal tumor decompression, spinal fusion, and correction of spinal deformities.

How Can I Prepare For Surgery?

There are several ways you can prepare for your minimally-invasive spine surgery. To prepare for surgery Comprehensive Spine Care recommends that: 

  • If you smoke, quit smoking. Ask your health provider for medicines and programs that can help you quit smoking.

  • Regular exercise keeps your body and muscles in good shape and reduces recovery time.

  • You review with your medical team all the medications you are taking a few weeks before your surgery date. You may need to stop taking non-essential medicines and herbal remedies. These may react with narcotics or other medicines you may be taking.

  • You may take antibiotics before and after surgery. Antibiotics help prevent a potential infection. 

  • Your doctor will tell you what to eat or drink the night before surgery.

What Happens During A Minimally-Invasive Spine Surgery?

During the minimally-invasive spine surgery, you will be given either local or general anesthesia. To determine where the incisions need to be made, your surgeon may use a fluoroscopy or an endoscope. A fluoroscope is a portable X-ray machine that provides real-time images of the spine during surgery. An endoscope is a thin, telescope-like instrument attached to a tiny video camera that projects an inside view of your spine onto a TV screen in the operating room. Small surgical instruments are inserted through the endoscope or through other half-inch incisions where tubular retractors are placed.

Tube retractors are thin, hollow tubes. The retractor creates a small tunnel of working space between the opening in your skin and the target area of ​​your spine. Instruments are inserted through one or more retractors. Spinal bone and tissue removed during surgery are also retracted by the same retractor. During the surgery, the tubular retractor keeps your muscles away from the surgical site. After the retractor is removed, your muscles return to their original positions.

After surgery, your incision will be closed with sutures, glue, or staples, and covered with surgical tape or a small bandage.

What Does The Recovery Time Of Minimally-Invasive Surgery Look Like?

Compared with open surgery, minimally invasive spine surgery is less painful, causes less muscle damage, and results in a shorter hospital stay and faster recovery, allowing for a quicker return to work and daily activities.

Typically, patients who have undergone minimally invasive spine surgery require three to five days in the hospital. The total time to full recovery varies for each patient, depending on your spinal problem, the difficulty of the surgery, the experience of the surgical team, your age, general health, and other factors. Your full recovery may take several months. Ask your surgeon about the expected full recovery time from surgery.

Be sure to keep all follow-up appointments with your spine care team. They will review your progress and answer any questions or concerns you may have.

Surgeon Rafael Levin of Comprehensive Spine Care is a Board Certified Orthopedic Surgeon specializing in spine surgery. If you think you might be a candidate for any spine care procedures or have questions about what to expect after minimally invasive spine surgery, please call 201-634-1811 to make an appointment.

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