Advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery

Norton Leatherman Spine uses minimally invasive surgery to decrease soft tissue disruption with the same results as a traditional, open procedure.

Spine surgeries have come a long way from the large open procedures that were the standard of care for many years. A wide range of minimally invasive surgeries are now possible for patients, with excellent results and faster recovery.

Our goal with minimally invasive surgery is to decrease soft-tissue disruption yet accomplish the same results as a traditional, open-type procedure.

Minimally invasive surgery has obvious advantages. It results in less muscle dissection, less blood loss, a lower risk of infection, less narcotics use, shorter hospital stays, less rehabilitation, faster recovery and a quicker return to daily activities.

Patients who receive minimally invasive spine surgery are also able to discharge to home the same day in many instances.

I personally utilize a combination of both tubular work and a mini, open-type fusion surgery.

Minimally invasive approaches have greater benefit for patients where disruption of the posterior muscular chain would impart a greater impairment than in people where that muscular chain has been subject to normal aging.

Additionally, I have found that healing these types of wounds is easier for patients with greater medical comorbidities, given the decreased soft-tissue destruction.

Patients who undergo minimally invasive procedures also have potentially better long-term function.

At Norton Leatherman Spine we have been able to create a network of providers who have multiple skill sets, so each patient can have the most-appropriate procedure, including access to the most advanced minimally invasive options.

We offer decompression procedures with incisions that are approximately 1.5 centimeters long. We also perform fusion-type procedures with much less soft-tissue destruction and therefore a faster healing process.

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We are combining new technologies in order to be able to do this. For example, using a 3D, computer-generated navigation system to position spinal implants, we can place them precisely where they need to go. Using this navigational technology, the risk of malpositioned implants is less than 1%.

With traditional open spine surgery, we rely on bony landmarks to put screws in the right place. To see the landmarks requires a much bigger incision to expose a much more extensive segment of the spine. Computer-assisted navigation means we don’t need those landmarks. The computer is showing us exactly where to put the implants.

Minimally invasive surgery is not for everyone. For example, patients who have extensive scar tissue from multiple prior surgeries generally are not candidates for minimally invasive surgery.

Those patients who do get minimally invasive surgery tend to be very happy. Surgery is more predictable and less painful, and patients can get back to where they were before much more quickly.

Ultimately, it is up to each provider to recommend a tailored procedure to meet each specific patient’s needs. Offering a range of minimally invasive procedures gives our patients more — and often better — options.

Kathryn J. McCarthy Mullooly, M.D., is a spine surgeon with Norton Leatherman Spine.

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