Unlike several decades ago, many spine-related issues can now be corrected using minimally invasive surgical techniques. Minimally invasive procedures provide numerous patient advantages over traditional surgery, including less post-operative pain, shorter recovery times, negligible damage to surrounding tissues and muscles, and – most importantly – better outcomes. What follows are 13 of the more common minimally invasive surgeries that the board-certified surgeons at The Spine Center now offer.
What is Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?
Minimally invasive spine surgery is a newer way of performing neck and back surgeries. In a traditional procedure, the surgeon makes a single long incision through your skin and then spreads or pulls the surrounding muscle and soft tissue away from the bone – or completely removes the tissue.
During minimally invasive surgery, the doctor makes one or more tiny incisions through the skin and then inserts a small metal tube or endoscope through the incision site(s) – allowing them to work through a much smaller operative field. As a result, the patient’s surrounding muscles and soft tissues are exposed to significantly less damage and require less healing.
What Types of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Are There?
The surgeons at The Spine Center routinely perform these minimally invasive techniques:
Cervical corpectomy surgery is performed on the front of the cervical spine using a microscope and fluoroscopic guidance. During a single-level cervical corpectomy, the vertical body, along with the discs located above and below the vertical body, are removed.
Once that’s done, the surgeon carefully lifts bone and/or ligaments up off the spinal cord to relieve pressure, and then places a structural cage in the empty space to provide stability. In some instances, plates and screws may need to be inserted into the spine to further stabilize it for a spinal fusion.
As a newer advancement for patients with spinal tumors, the patented CyberKnife® System uses an image-guided linear accelerator to deliver high doses of radiation with pinpoint accuracy.
In the hands of a skilled surgeon, the CyberKnife® System precisely gets the radiation where it needs to be while greatly minimizing exposure of the healthy, sensitive tissues around the tumor and spinal cord. As a result, the patient has a much lower risk of experiencing many of the side effects associated with traditional spinal tumor treatments.
This minimally invasive spine surgery is ideal for someone with nerve irritation or compression resulting from a herniated disc. Used to remove the damaged portion of a herniated disc, a discectomy is most effective for treating intense pain that radiates down the patient’s arms or legs.
Conversely, this minimally invasive procedure is less helpful for treating actual back or neck pain. For those patients, a spine specialist may recommend more conservative pain-relief alternatives such as lifestyle changes or physical therapy.
Spinal stenosis often presents once blockages start to narrow the spinal column or block an intervertebral foramen. Conditions that cause spinal stenosis include degenerative arthritis of the spine (spondylosis), cysts, tumors, congenital issues, degeneration of the intervertebral discs, or an enlargement of a nearby ligament.
To lessen the patient’s symptoms, the surgeon may perform a minimally invasive procedure called a foraminotomy. During surgery, the doctor will make a small incision on the back or neck and expose the damaged vertebrae. Once that’s done, they will then surgically widen the intervertebral foramen and remove any blockages that are present.
Laminectomy is a minimally invasive surgery during which the surgeon creates space by removing the lamina – the back part of the vertebra that covers your spinal canal. Also commonly called spinal decompression surgery, laminectomy expands your spinal canal to relieve pressure on the nerves or spinal cord.
Often seen in patients with arthritic spines, this pressure is due to bony overgrowths (bone spurs) inside the spinal canal. Your doctor might recommend laminectomy when more conservative treatments aren’t relieving your symptoms, or if your symptoms are more significant or dramatically worsening.
Lumbar Disc Arthroplasty
A spine surgeon may perform lumbar artificial disc replacement surgery, or lumbar disc arthroplasty, to treat a patient with chronic, significant low back pain resulting from degenerative disc disease. Lumber disc arthroplasty is typically performed in situations when a minimum of six months of nonsurgical treatments hasn’t worked, and the pain is limiting one’s ability to function in everyday life.
During surgery, the painful spinal disc is replaced with a special device that mimics the disc’s natural movement. The goal of an artificial disc replacement is to stabilize the spinal segment and reduce pain by minimizing aggravating micro-motion and inflammation.
A kyphoplasty is sometimes used to restore a damaged vertebra’s height and relieve chronic pain. During the procedure, the surgeon injects a special cement into the patient’s vertebrae after first creating space using a balloon-like device (balloon vertebroplasty).
A spine doctor may recommend kyphoplasty when a patient’s vertebrae are damaged due to cancer or when they have been diagnosed with a spinal fracture. In those instances, the fracture is usually caused by a weakening of the bones due to a condition such as osteoporosis, causing the vertebrae to compress or collapse.
Resection of Synovial Cyst
Microdecompression surgery alone or a decompression surgery combined with a spinal fusion are sometimes used to treat synovial cysts. If there is no associated instability with the cyst, then a microdecompression of the nerve root with cyst removal tends to work well – a minimally invasive surgical procedure that’s very similar to a microdiscectomy.
In some cases, the synovial cyst can reform later, creating the need for a more extensive type of procedure, such as decompression with spine fusion surgery.
Spinal Cord Stimulator Implantation
Spinal cord stimulation involves the implantation of a device that transmits low levels of electricity into the spinal cord to relieve pain. A spinal cord stimulator contains thin wires (electrodes) and a small, pacemaker-life battery pack (generator).
The surgeon implants the electrodes between the vertebrae and spinal cord and the generator under the skin – typically near the patient’s abdomen or buttocks. Once implanted, the device allows the patient to send electrical impulses on demand that mask the pain sensation using a remote control.
Spine surgeons sometimes recommend spinal fusion surgery for those with deformities of the spine (i.e., scoliosis), spinal weakness, vertebrae instability, or when pain is due to a herniated disc. Used to mimic the normal healing process of broken bones, a spinal fusion is intended to permanently connect two or more vertebrae in the spine so that they won’t move around.
During spinal fusion surgery, the surgeon inserts bone or bonelike material into the space (bone grafting) between two spinal vertebrae. To help them heal as one cohesive unit, screws, rods, and metal plates may be used to hold the damaged vertebrae together.
Often used in combination with spinal fusion, instrumentation helps maintain stability while promoting the process of bone fusion. With spinal instrumentation, there is a reduced need for rigid external spinal bracing after a spinal fusion procedure.
Examples of spinal instrumentation that a surgeon might use include plates, pedicle screws, rods, artificial discs, connectors, expandable cages, and more.
Also known as a tumor removal or tumor excision, a tumor resection is a procedure commonly done on cancer patients. The surgeon carefully removes the tumor, along with some of the healthy tissue surrounding it (margin).
Since tumor removal surgery usually requires a slightly larger incision than a biopsy, newer, less-invasive techniques that involve robotics or laparoscopy are providing many benefits to cancer patients who present with spine tumors.
Compression Fracture Repairs
When a patient with a spinal fracture doesn’t experience pain relief using non-surgical treatments, their doctor may recommend a minimally invasive surgical procedure called a compression fracture repair.
The two main types of compression fracture repairs are vertebroplasty and kyphoplasty. Since either procedure involves small, minimally invasive incisions, healing time is minimal. The acrylic bone cement that’s used to stabilize bone fragments hardens quickly, allowing most patients to go home the same day or after spending only one night in the hospital.
What Are the Benefits of Minimally Invasive Technique?
As opposed to open surgery, the advantages of a minimally invasive procedure include:
- Less anesthesia
- Reduced risk of infection
- Less blood loss during surgery
- Shorter recovery time
- Less post-surgical pain
- Less muscle and soft tissue damage
- Better cosmetic results (fewer and smaller scars)
- Shorter hospital stay
- Quicker return to normal activities
Who is a Candidate for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?
For reasons that may include safety and efficacy, a minimally invasive procedure is not necessarily for every patient. Each type of surgery must be individualized for a specific patient and technique. All potential candidates must undergo a thorough evaluation to determine if a minimally invasive procedure is right for them. If not, our fellowship-trained spine specialists will recommend another safe and effective treatment option.
Do Minimally Invasive Procedures Have Risks?
Like any other surgery, minimally invasive spine surgery does come with risks. If your doctor determines that you are a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure, they will discuss the potential risks with your beforehand and patiently answer any other questions you might have.
How Much Does Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Cost?
In most cases, the cost of minimally invasive spine surgery averages much less than a traditional open spine surgery. Another cost-saving feature is the fact it can often be performed as an outpatient procedure outside of a hospital setting. If minimally invasive spine surgery is the best option for you, the amount you pay out of pocket will depend on your individual medical insurance coverage.
Innovative Spine Care Solutions for Patients in Chicago
At The Spine Center, we’re dedicated to providing you with high-quality, personalized back and neck care. We strive to offer efficient and professional services to our patients, delivered with integrity and honesty. We have a solid commitment to excellence in diagnosing and treating spinal injuries and conditions spanning all ages.
As fellowship-trained physicians with over 50 years of experience treating spinal conditions, we offer patient recommendations for treatment, including conservative care, non-operative treatment, and sophisticated, customized surgical solutions. Our physicians serve as innovators in technology, actively participate in research studies, and are at the forefront of medical knowledge. If you or a loved one suffer from back or neck pain, call The Spine Center today at (847) 698-9330 to schedule a consultation.