If you’ve been experiencing back or neck pain that’s not responding well to conservative treatments, you’ve probably had some discussions with your doctor or a spine specialist about surgery. Odds are good that such talks have included a mention of minimally invasive spinal surgery (MISS), which is an increasingly common way to perform many decompression and stabilization procedures. If you’d like to know what exactly is involved with MISS and what you can expect if you’re a good candidate for a minimally invasive procedure, continue reading.
Also referred to as a laparoscopic operation, minimally invasive spinal surgery is an alternative to traditional open surgery. It’s performed with smaller incisions and specialized instruments, one of which is a lighted tube with a lens attached to it called a laparoscope. The lens displays internal images on a monitor so the surgeon can perform the correct manipulations with the assistance of real-time video.
The use of smaller incisions instead of one large one reduces the risk of damaging surrounding tissues and nerves. With many minimally invasive procedures, there’s no need to cut through muscles to access the affected part of the spine. For example, this is the case with a minimally invasive extreme lateral interbody fusion. Beverly Hills patients who undergo this procedure only have two small incisions made in the side of the body. Smaller incisions also reduce scarring and wound site infection risk. Some other benefits associated with MISS include:
• Fewer days spent in the hospital or recovery center*
• Faster recovery
• Less pain after surgery and during recovery
• The ability to begin physical therapy or rehab sooner
• Reduced medical costs
*Some minimally invasive spine procedures can be performed as same-day or outpatient surgery.
Minimally invasive spinal surgery is like any other type of surgery in that there are certain steps you can take to increase your odds of a successful recovery. Before your procedure, take some time to ask questions so you’re fully aware of what your particular type of MISS will involve. This is also a good time to discuss your expectations and goals for your post-surgery rehab. Further increase your odds of having a good experience with rehab after surgery by:
• Understanding what to expect immediately after the operation – Be aware of what limitations on movements and activities you’ll have so you don’t end up pushing yourself too hard or experiencing reinjury.
• Knowing when your PT starts – Physical therapy (PT) is an important part of the recovery process, so make sure you know when your PT program should start. Also, discuss what you can do if your progress doesn’t go as fast as you expected.
• Following through with post-surgery instructions – Your recovery will be more productive if you stick to the advice you’ll be given before you leave the hospital or surgical center, which means scheduling follow-up appointments, doing certain PT exercises at home as instructed, and following your post-surgery diet recommendations.
• Being cautious with incision care – Minimize the risk of readmission to the hospital by changing your bandages as directed. Also, follow instructions about bathing or showering, and be aware of possible signs of infection (e.g., redness or swelling around the incision site(s), unusual discharge, and fever).
There are many wonderful benefits associated with minimally invasive spinal surgery, but it’s not right for every situation and every patient. Your overall health, the nature and extent of your particular source of spine-related pain, and how easy it is to access the affected area are among the factors that will determine if MISS is right for you.
Whether minimally invasive surgery offers the best chance for a positive outcome or you’re a good candidate for non-surgical treatment, make sure to consult with a trusted spine surgeon. Beverly Hills spinal patients can rest easy knowing The Spine Institute can help them meet their goal of living a pain-free life. For more information or to schedule a consultation, call us at 310-828-7757 today.