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Traditional vs. Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Neck and back issues are one of the leading reasons patients seek treatment from orthopedic and neurologic specialists, as issues stemming from the spine are both common and painful. Spinal pathology such as spinal stenosis, radiculopathy or herniated discs can impact almost every aspect of a patient’s life. The inherent pain of a debilitating back condition can cause sufferers to abandon their hobbies and once-pleasurable physical activities for fear of worsening spine issues.

Man with back pain

If you suffer from nerve pain, there are a range of treatments that may improve your condition. Most people opt to try the non-surgical alternatives first, such as medications and physical therapy, but when conservative treatments have been exhausted, you’ll want to entrust your care to the best spine surgeons in Atlanta. There are a variety of approaches for spinal surgery including the traditional open approach and newer minimally invasive approaches. Though their names may provide a hint towards at least one of the distinctions between the two methods, there’s much more to know before agreeing to undergo either of these procedures. Keep reading to learn a few of the differences between traditional open surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery.

Traditional Open Surgery

Traditional open surgery, as the name implies, is the standard of care to treat most neck and back spinal issues. It consists of exposing the spine through a midline approach in order for the surgeon to visualize all aspects of the spine. Because of the larger exposure needed, there is more disruption of the surrounding muscle soft tissue. A larger skin incision is needed for the surgeon to see all he or she needs to see. Traditional open surgery also has increased inherent risks of infection, bleeding, and pain due to the larger surgery needed.

Traditional open surgery is still the gold standard for most spinal pathology, and when needed, is the preferred approach for a variety of conditions.

Woman with back pain

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

As the name suggests, minimally invasive spine surgeries (MISS) seek to address conditions affecting the spine in a focused manner without the need for larger dissections involved with open procedures. Innovations in diagnostic imaging and surgical techniques have allowed minimally invasive back surgery to now treat certain spinal conditions that were otherwise only treated with open procedures. This allows surgeons to make smaller cuts and disrupt less tissue while correcting the problem. There are many benefits to using the minimally invasive approach, including less post-operative pain, decreased soft tissue injury, and less bleeding, that can lead to faster recovery time, reduced risk of infection, and better outcomes for patients. Minimally invasive back surgeries can also be less costly since the time to conduct the surgery and the recovery time afterward is significantly shorter in duration. 

Minimally-invasive surgical procedures that are becoming more common include MIS lumbar microdiscectomy for removal of a herniated disc that pinches a nerve causing severe leg pain, numbness or weakness, MIS lumbar microdecompressions (video) for treatment of spinal stenosis, MIS TLIFs for treatment of spinal instability, MIS cervical laminopforaminotomies for treatment of cervical radiculopathy. Many of these surgeries will end up with an incision the size of a fingernail and a band-aid for dressing. There are, however, limitations to minimally invasive spine surgery and many diseases will still require a traditional open procedure. Learn more about minimally invasive spine surgery for treatment of painful spinal conditions by visiting a spine surgeon trained in performing minimally invasive spine surgery.

If you suffer from spinal problems and are contemplating surgery, make sure you know the differences between traditional open surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery. To learn more about traditional open surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery, contact OrthoAtlanta at (770) 959-6929.

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