The growing trend towards minimally invasive back surgery has resulted in reduced recovery times and fewer complication risks for many patients. This is also true of minimally invasive lumbar fusion, a common procedure to correct instability of the lower spine, which often results in a reduced, and more productive, recovery.
Keeping Patients Awake
A newer form of minimally invasive lumbar lumbar involves fewer sedatives and allows the patient to remain aware and responsive throughout the procedure. This helps the surgeon to better gauge how the surgery is progressing. Referred to as an “awake lumbar fusion,” the operation is performed with mild sedation. The basic procedure is still the same, with the offending disc removed and a fusion performed to stabilize the spine. What’s different is the patient experience during and after surgery.
Reduced Hospital Stays
Dr. Michael Wang, a University of Miami professor who has used the awake procedure on patients with severe disc height collapse, noted an average operative time of nearly two hours. The average hospital stay among patients who had the procedure was 1.4 nights, significantly less than what’s normally required with conventional surgery. With traditional open surgery, the average hospital stay is 4.2 days. Even with a minimally invasive procedure where the patient is not awake, the average stay is 3.5 days.
The awake minimally invasive procedure incorporates enhanced recovery after surgery (ERAS) protocols to further reduce recovery time. It’s a team approach to fast-tracking patients through the surgical and recovery process in a way that benefits the needs of the patient. While this approach to spine surgery is still in its infancy, early results are promising for patients who dread the recovery period following surgery. Minimally invasive techniques, in general, often mean:
- Less damage to surrounding muscles
- Faster healing since smaller incisions are made
- Reduced dependence on pain medications
Minimally invasive lumbar fusion isn’t for everyone. Some patients do better with an open procedure, although a detailed evaluation will determine if a less-invasive procedure, or an awake procedure, is best for a particular patient’s situation. Determining factors typically include patient health and the location of the unstable part of the spine.
If you would like to learn more about traditional and minimally invasive spine procedures or are interested in a second opinion, don’t hesitate to reach out to The Spine Institute, a leading Los Angeles spinal surgery center. Our experienced board-certified spine surgeons in Los Angeles can review your medical history, diagnose your current condition, and help you discover the path to a pain-free life. Call (310) 828-7757 today and schedule an in-person consultation.