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If you’re one of the millions of people who deal with persistent back pain, you know how much of an impact it can have on daily life. This impact can be especially harsh for younger people, who are often unaccustomed to having restrictions on their physical activity. Back pain is usually the result of mechanical issues in the spine, which may be correctable with surgery.

Advances in medical technology have made minimally invasive spine surgery a popular choice for those who have not found success with non-surgical treatment. However, just as no two people have the same exact lifestyle, no two cases of spine pathology are the same. This is why it is important to speak with your doctor to decide which treatment option best suits your needs. What follows is an overview of minimally invasive spine surgery that can help guide you in your decision.

What Is Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

Minimally invasive spine surgery is a collection of procedures that seeks to resolve spinal pathology while also minimizing tissue damage, reducing infection risk and promoting the body’s inherent healing capacity. Conditions like spinal stenosis, sciatica, spondylolisthesis, degenerative scoliosis and spinal tumors may all be treatable with minimally invasive spine surgery.

Due to the range of conditions for which this surgery is beneficial, you will need to undergo an MRI, a CT scan and/or an X-ray before the procedure so that the surgeon can diagnose the pathology, pinpoint its location and determine a detailed strategy for the operation.

While approaches can vary depending on the condition to be treated, most minimally invasive spine surgeries utilize dilation technology, which creates access to the site of surgery by moving muscle tissue out of the way, rather than cutting through it. The surgery is performed through a small tube using a microscope or endoscope to allow the surgeon to visualize structures within the body. After that, the surgeon will follow a protocol that corresponds to the spinal pathology in question — which is often a spinal decompression or fusion.

The dilation technology gives the surgeon physical and visual access to the operative site to ensure precision throughout the course of the surgery, while simultaneously minimizing tissue trauma.

Who Is Best Suited for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

There are several factors that contribute to one’s candidacy for minimally invasive spine surgery. If you have one of the conditions mentioned above or any other sort of acute back pain, talk to your doctor about whether surgery can help you. Your suitability for surgery can depend on your level of activity prior to surgery, the level of activity you seek to attain after surgery, your age and several other components of your health and your lifestyle.

Younger people generally heal more quickly after an operation than their older counterparts, which makes them good candidates. However, younger people may also respond better to non-surgical techniques, so it’s important to consider less invasive options before proceeding with surgery.

Almost all minimally invasive spine surgery is elective, meaning that it’s up to you, the patient, to decide whether you need it. It is therefore crucial to discuss your health and your lifestyle with a medical professional to allow for a complete picture of your needs and how best to meet them.

What Are the Benefits and Risks?

Minimally invasive spine surgery has a host of advantages over traditional approaches. On the technical side, it involves smaller incisions, less tissue trauma, lower risk of infection, less scarring and minimal blood loss. When it comes to livelihood, patients generally experience a faster return to full activity and require less postoperative pain medication. Patients often leave the hospital the day of the operation if they can reach certain benchmarksoften leave the hospital the day of the operation if they can reach certain benchmarks, such as walking, eating and urinating. Other, more invasive, techniques often necessitate a stay of up to a week. These procedures are even sometimes performed on an outpatient basis. Depending on the patient and his or her pathology, a full recovery can take as little as six weeks.

On the other hand, it is important to note that minimally invasive spine surgery is a highly technical procedure, and thus requires a significant amount of training. The technology used in these procedures is relatively new, and surgeons must have a profound understanding of it in order to use it effectively. It is important to ensure the competence and experience of your surgeon before you decide to undergo minimally invasive spine surgery.

Closing Thoughts

Minimally invasive spine surgery is a promising, yet relatively new technique in the healthcare industry with a set of benefits and risks that must be carefully considered. Because back pain can be such a complicated issue, it’s important to seek professional guidance as you decide on the proper course of treatment. Prior to making a decision, do as much research as possible and speak with your doctor about all of your options.
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