Expert Blog

Jason Datta, MD.

Minimally Invasive Technology

Spine surgery, like other aspects of medicine, is moving more towards minimally invasive techniques and innovative ways of approaching the common problems that patients suffer in the neck and back. Just in the last 10 years, there have been significant improvements in techniques to improve outcomes and shorten recovery times so critical to patients when considering elective surgeries. Minimally invasive procedures use techniques and instrumentation to allow smaller incisions, less muscle disruption, and less blood loss resulting in faster recovery. At Sonoran Spine, minimally invasive surgery (MIS) really isn't a product, but a philosophy that we pursue to limit recovery time and complications in our patients.

Help for a Disc Herniations through a Smaller Incision

The original minimally invasive procedure, microdiscectomy, is used to treat a herniated disc that causes leg pain or sciatica. Using MIS, the disc herniation can be removed through a less than one inch incision. The limited muscle disruption allows this surgery to be done as an out-patient compared to longer hospital stay. Some single level disc herniations in the cervical spine (neck) can also now be done as an out-patient. Both of these more familiar surgeries are still done in a traditional way, but refined techniques allow our patients to recover quickly without hospitalization and with less pain.

Faster Recovery for Lumbar Fusion Surgery

The most exciting type of minimally invasive surgery is the lumbar fusion surgery (surgical technique used to join two or more vertebrae together that stops movement between them) and sometimes, the laminectomy (the removal of the lamina or portion of the vertebral bone in the spine) that corrects a pinched nerve. There are many patients that qualify for these newer minimally invasive approaches that limit blood loss, allow less hospital stay time, and faster recovery to full activity. Traditional pedicle screws to stabilize and brace the spine in the area that two vertebrae are to be fused typically require disruption of the muscle at the spine. Now, screws can be placed through 1-1 ½ inch incisions with virtually no blood loss during the procedure. Using the same incision, a fusion of a disc space can done at the same time with the same success. Minimally invasive fusion surgery decreases a hospital stay from four to 2 or 3 days, cuts blood loss half, decreasing the need for a postoperative blood transfusion. Recovery time for returning to work or full activity with minimal restriction is typically decreased by 20 to 30%.

More Options for Spine Surgery

Even lumbar disc fusions that require anterior (from the front of the body) abdominal approaches with higher bleeding risks can now be done through smaller incisions of 2-3 inches vs. 6-8 inches in length. At certain levels the same surgeries can be done by approaching the disc from the side through a ½ inch incision and significantly less risk for blood loss as well.

These techniques continue to evolve and the physicians at Sonoran Spine are taking the lead to improve our patients' risk profile and decrease recovery time back to an active lifestyle. We may not be able to treat every condition with these techniques, but most patients are surprised with the number of options that are now available from which to choose.