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What is the difference between minimally invasive spine surgery vs. open spine surgery

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Surgery. If you’ve been told you need it to treat your back pain, you may not be loving that word right about now. But whether you are having minimally invasive spine surgery or a traditional procedure, you can put your mind at ease simply by knowing what’s ahead.

Why minimally invasive?

People often choose minimally invasive spine surgery today, if given the choice, because these procedures can often eliminate many of the most unpleasant aspects of back operations, including how much pain you feel and how long it takes to recover. “Minimally invasive surgery allows your surgeon to use techniques that limit the size and number of cuts, or incisions, that they need to make,” said HealthLine. “It’s typically considered safer than open surgery. You’ll usually recover more quickly, spend less time in the hospital, and feel more comfortable while you heal.”


In some cases, however, minimally invasive surgery isn’t possible. A patient with certain kinds of spinal defects, a prior spinal surgery, or multilevel degenerative lumbar spinal stenosis could end up needing an open surgery. Having a top surgeon who is skilled in both minimally invasive and traditional spine surgery, and who is able to confidently guide patients toward the surgical procedure that is best suited for them, is key to achieving the best possible outcome—and giving you important peace of mind.

So let’s get into the specifics of what differentiates minimally invasive surgery from open spine surgery.

1. Open means open

During open surgery, you can expect to be opened up (hence, the name). Incisions are typically long in order to give the surgeon the best view of, and access to, the anatomy. It’s also possible that, during an open procedure, muscles and tendons will have to be cut through and moved aside to reach the affected area. This can cause damage to these tissues and prolong recovery, so choosing the right surgeon, like Dr. Mark C. Valente, Founder and Medical Director of DISC Spine Institute, is critical. Dr. Valente is so experienced and so respected that he is often the choice of other minimally invasive surgeons whose patients need a traditional spine surgery.

If the realities of an open surgery sound scary but you’re not a candidate for minimally invasive surgery, keep in mind that these procedures have been done successfully for decades, and are considered extremely safe, especially when you’re in the hands of a renowned surgeon.

2. Minimally invasive incisions are really small

One of the advantages to minimally invasive procedures is the length of the incision. Instead of up to 10 inches or longer, incisions during minimally invasive surgery can be as tiny as 3mm. That’s just about 1/8 of an inch! A smaller incision can also mean less chance of infection and a faster healing time. Additionally, minimally invasive surgery limits the exposure of the anatomy, allowing the surgeon to make use of newer techniques and scientific advancements to repair injuries and treat spinal conditions without cutting muscles and tissue.

3. Hospitalizations

Expect to spend up to a week or more in the hospital with some traditional spine surgeries as your body heals and the team of doctors monitors your progress; as a general rule of thumb, minimally invasive spine surgery cuts the hospitalization time in half, but many patients are in and out of the hospital in an even shorter period of time. In fact, some minimally invasive spine surgeries “are performed as outpatient procedures and utilize only local anesthesia—so there is less risk for an adverse reaction to general anesthesia,” said the American Association of Neurological Surgeons.

4. Time on the table

Because of the nature of open spine surgery and all the steps that are involved, you may be on the table for several hours. This is typical and to be expected. The fact that some minimally invasive spine surgeries can take as little as a half hour, and some are even done on an outpatient basis, as mentioned above, comes as a relief to patients who may have a fear of, or history of problems, with anesthesia. On the other hand, patients with anxiety, for example, who are unable to endure an “awake” procedure, appreciate being able to choose to be “put out,” even though it will mean they can’t go home immediately after the procedure.

5. Fewer complications

The potential for complications exists with every surgical procedure, regardless of how it is performed. Choosing a top surgeon with a great track record and following instructions before and after your procedure is what you can do to actively lower the chance of having to deal with complications. Everything from the time spent on the operating table to the reduced need for anesthesia to the smaller incision combines to further lower the risk of complications during minimally invasive spine surgery. There is also less blood loss during a minimally invasive procedure, which lessens the need for blood transfusions.

6. A faster and easier recovery

All those same reasons are also typically why the recovery from minimally invasive spine surgery is easier to manage. While all post-operative patients are encouraged to take it easy while they recuperate, the body tends to naturally heal faster when less of it has been impacted. Patients who are not a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure can speed their recovery from an open surgery by making sure they not only follow doctor’s orders as it relates to their activity level and taking medications, but also by avoiding smoking, heeding advice regarding their diet, getting enough sleep, and making plans to get sufficient help with kids, home, and other responsibilities so they can recover fully with as little stress as possible.

Seeing a doctor

Advances in technology and specialization by leading spinal surgeons have made minimally invasive surgical procedures a popular and ever-growing option for back pain sufferers. When it’s time to put an end to your pain, visit DISC Spine Institute, experts in minimally invasive treatments, the most effective medical procedures to treat and eliminate chronic back pain today. Minimally invasive surgical techniques mean treating chronic back pain is easier than ever, with outpatient treatments, small incisions, and a quicker recovery time instead of a long hospital stay.

Meet with Dr. Valente or Dr. Indresano in person at one of our 7 convenient DFW locations

Ready for life without back pain? Dr. Valente and Dr. Indresano are here to help. Submit your information and our staff will contact you shortly.

"*" indicates required fields

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