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If you have low back pain or sciatica, then you understand how the pain can limit your ability to enjoy your normal everyday activities. Many times, back pain can be successfully treated with conservative measures such as exercise or injections. Occasionally, the damage to your spine is severe and surgery may be recommended. One type of surgery that some New Jersey neurosurgical specialists perform is a minimally invasive spine surgery.

Whenever you are scheduled for surgery, your doctor should explain the risks and expected benefits associated with the procedure. That way, you can make an informed decision about having the surgery or choosing not to undergo the procedure.

Types of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Before thinking about the risks associated with minimally invasive spine surgery, you should understand that there are different types of procedures that can be done using these specialized techniques. These may include:

  • Lumbar laminectomy.
  • Lumbar discecotmy.
  • Vertebral kyphoplasty.
  • Lumbar fusion.
  • Radiosurgery for spinal tumor.

Since different surgeries involve different levels of insult to your spine and the surrounding tissues, the risks associated with those surgeries varies. Therefore, it is important for you to discuss the possible risks associated with your procedure.

Risks Associated with Spine Surgery

The risks inherent in minimally invasive spine surgery are similar to those that may occur during the standard open approach to spine surgery. These risks include:

  • Cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) leak.
  • Infection.
  • Uncontrollable bleeding.
  • Failure for the procedure to alleviate your symptoms.
  • Worsening of your symptoms.

If the risks associated with both procedures are the same, why would anyone choose one over the other? Because the benefits associated with minimally invasive spine surgery are superior to those offered by the open approach. These benefits include:

  • Decreased post-operative pain.
  • Decreased blood loss.
  • More rapid return to functional activity.
  • Smaller incisions with less injury to spinal muscles.

It is thought by many neurosurgeons that the risks are less when performing minimally invasive spine surgery as compared to the standard approach, but the ability to effectively study and assess the difference between the two is difficult. This is due to the informed consent law that is required for patients who participate in scientific studies about spine surgery.

To compare the risks between standard and minimally invasive spine surgery, researchers must recruit participants who need surgery, and then tell those participants that may have a standard open procedure or a surgery with a tiny incision. Most, if not all, participants would naturally want to be randomized to the group that receives the small incision with an expected shorter recovery period. Subject randomization for these studies is very difficult, and significant bias would be present in such a study.

Limiting Risk with Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Whenever any surgery is performed, minimizing risk to the patient is of utmost importance. Minimally invasive spine surgery may have advantages over standard spine surgery in decreasing risks. A smaller incision means less opportunity for infectious, harmful bacteria to enter into the surgical field. Sparing your back muscles from dissection means decreased blood loss.

All surgical interventions carry with them some risks, and minimally invasive spine surgery is no different. But since the incision with the minimally invasive procedure is so tiny and the risk of bleeding is minimized, these risks are well controlled.

Many active New Jersey residents who are suffering from low back pain and sciatica have chosen to trust neurosurgeons who perform minimally invasive spine surgery due to the increased benefits associated with the procedure and the decreased risk inherent in the procedure. By decreasing the overall risk, you can be sure to quickly and safely return to your previous level of activity.
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