Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Expectations
If you have been told you might need surgery to address your back pain, you can consider yourself lucky. Not because you’ll be going under the knife, but because of how advancements in today’s surgical techniques through minimally invasive spine surgery have made going under the knife so much easier.
“The concept of minimally invasive spine surgery has more recently emerged with longer-term data to support its effectiveness in successfully treating a wide range of spinal deformities and conditions — often with significantly reduced risks to the patient compared to ‘open’ spine surgery procedures, which are still performed and were the norm only a few decades ago,” said US News & World Reports. “After years of practicing traditional ‘open’ spine surgery, many modern technical advances have paved the way to provide the same (if not better) results with much less pain, surgical complications and healing time, allowing patients to undergo the entire process with reduced stress on the body and return to normal life that much faster.”
Expectations before, during, and after Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery:
Once you have been identified as a surgical candidate, your spine doctor will give you a list of instructions to be followed in the days and weeks leading up to your procedure. It’s important that you follow those instructions very carefully because they are intended to make sure that you are in the best possible shape for your procedure. They may include:
- Refraining from eating certain foods or losing a few pounds—This can make recovery easier.
- Staying away from certain medications—If you’re on blood thinners, expect to have some modifications to your routine.
- Quitting smoking—Yes, it’s easier said than done, and you probably already want to quit. But consider this: Smoking can make it harder to heal after back surgery, and smoking also reduces bone density and restricts blood flow.
- Making a plan—You’ll need time off and help from friends and family to run your household while you are recovering from back surgery.
“Minimally invasive surgery allows your surgeon to use techniques that limit the size and number of cuts, or incisions, that they need to make. You’ll usually recover more quickly, spend less time in the hospital, and feel more comfortable while you heal,” said HeathLine.
These are some of the obvious reasons patients are increasingly choosing minimally invasive spine surgery over open procedures. With a traditional procedure, the surgeon typically makes one large cut and opens the anatomy to be able to see and access the affected area. “In minimally invasive surgery, your surgeon uses small tools, cameras, and lights that fit through several tiny cuts in your skin,” said HealthLine. “This allows your surgeon to perform surgery without opening a lot of skin and muscle,” and it allows your tendons and ligaments to stay intact instead of being cut and potentially damaged during an open procedure.
Incisions during a minimally invasive spine surgery can be as small as a few millimeters. The procedures are also typically shorter—as little as 30 minutes—one more reason this type of procedure is easier on the body and responsible for far less pain.
“That means less tissue and muscle damage, less time under anesthesia, less blood loss (and typically no blood transfusions), a lower likelihood of surgical complications, less stress on the body, a lower risk of infection, and a lower incident of adjacent segment degeneration—a breakdown of the discs, vertebrae, joints and nerves that can happen after a traditional back surgery and require a surgical revision,” said Dr. Mark C. Valente, Board certified and fellowship trained orthopedic spine surgeon and surgeon and Founder and Medical Director of DISC Spine Institute, a leader in minimally invasive back treatments and surgical procedures.
Many people delay surgery or opt to remain in pain because of the fear of a long and painful recovery. Are you going to be in pain after minimally invasive spine surgery? Yes. After all, it’s still surgery. But, you can expect the pain to be far less intense than if you’d had an open procedure, and also to be in pain for less time.
Minimally invasive surgical procedures can cut your time in the hospital by at least half, and, in some cases, the surgery is performed as an outpatient procedure, with patients up and walking right away and released to go home within a few hours. Once you return home, you will need to take it easy—even if you immediately feel dramatically better. Easing back into your life is key to long-term recovery.
Your doctor will give you a detailed list of what you can and can’t do—and when. Again, following these instructions is critical. Go back to the gym too early and you could find yourself back in the doctor’s office. The last thing you want to do is re-aggravate your injury. Additional instructions should include:
- Take care of your incision—Even with such a small incision, there is always a risk of infection if it is not properly cared for. Your doctor will make you aware of the potential symptoms, such as pain, swelling, or fever; these are all reasons to contact your doctor right away.
- Take medications as prescribed—Misuse of prescription meds can be dangerous and lead to dependency, but not taking meds while you’re recovering can delay the healing process.
- Exercise as advised—Movement promotes healing, but too much, too soon, could have the opposite effect.
Be patient—It can be challenging to work back into your normal routine slowly, but the doctor’s orders are there to help ensure a long-term, pain-free life for you. Gradual is good.
Taking the next step
If fear of the unknown has kept you in pain for far too long, consulting with a top back surgeon and getting the facts can be the first step toward a pain-free life. 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.