The old saying goes, “Change is good.” And when it comes to back pain surgery, nothing could be more true. It wasn’t that long ago that having surgery for chronic back conditions like herniated discs, spinal stenosis, or sciatica seemed like a never-ending convalescence. But, not anymore. Minimally invasive back treatments have made long, painful surgeries and extended recoveries nearly obsolete.
In some cases, surgery may not be needed. And, in fact, many of today’s leading back doctors look to treatments like epidural steroid injections to treat chronic back pain before discussing surgical options. But, when back pain surgery is the answer, leading spine surgeons are able to guide patients through the minimally invasive surgeries that can put an end to their back pain. This is a small and specialized group of expert back surgeons that represent just 10 percent of today’s spine surgeons with the experience and technical skill to perform minimally invasive procedures like kyphoplasty, micro endoscopic discectomy, direct lateral minimally invasive anterior fusions (XLIF), and minimally invasive endoscopic lumbar fusions (TLIF).
Less time under anesthesia during back pain surgery
Anesthesia is safer than ever, but many patients aren’t crazy about “going under.” Shorter minimally invasive surgeries mean less time under anesthesia, which can lessen the aftereffects, speed recovery, give patients peace of mind and, in some cases, help them to make the decision to end their back pain for good after years of suffering.
Less time in the hospital
“In general, minimally invasive spine surgery decreases the hospital stay by one-half,” according to the Society for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (SMISS). For some patients, that can mean just a day or two in the hospital after back pain surgery instead of a week or more. Some surgeries are even done as outpatient procedures, allowing people to walk right out the door pain-free the same day.
Less time recovering
“Modern minimally invasive spine surgery (MIS) was introduced in the 1990s with the description of tubular retractors for access to the lumbar spine and the report of the first lumbar microendoscopic discectomy,” said the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NCBI). “Today, MIS techniques and approaches are used in the treatment of a wide variety of spinal pathologies including degenerative disc disease, disc herniation, instability, deformity, fracture, infection and tumors.’’
Of particular interest to those interested in why minimally invasive techniques offer a quicker recovery is the term “tubular retractors.” While not the only tool used, the retractor or dilator allows leading surgeons to reach the affected area without cutting through muscles, which is what is typically done in a traditional or open surgery.
Additionally, minimally invasive back pain surgery uses about 1/10 of the blood of traditional surgeries, which generally means no blood transfusions. This combination of factors greatly reduces the trauma to the muscles and soft tissue, resulting in less pain, less blood loss, a lowered risk of infection and muscle damage, and the ability to be back on your feet—literally—much more quickly.
Less time in pain
Having back pain surgery after months or even years of wincing, groaning, and cringing at every movement is a big step. But knowing there is an end in sight for your pain is tremendous. And minimally invasive treatments mean you can start feeling whole again even sooner. The combination of less time under anesthesia, less blood loss, less time in the hospital, and less muscle and tissue involvement means your post-operative pain should be greatly reduced.
In addition, minimally invasive back pain surgery also lowers the incidence of adjacent segment degeneration—a “breakdown of the discs, vertebrae, joints and nerves” that can happen after a traditional back surgery, said DISC Spine Institute.
Less obvious scarring
Not thrilled about a big scar across your back? An open surgery generally means making a large incision so the surgeon can properly see the affected area. With minimally invasive procedures that use the aforementioned special tools, the incision can be as small as 3mm.
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