Shorter Recovery for Spine Surgery
(August 29, 2002) — When back pain leads to surgery, recovery can be a challenge. Now, relatively new minimally invasive techniques show promise for some conditions related to spine instability, including herniated disks, scoliosis, kyphosis and selected traumatic injuries. Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin are one of few facilities in Wisconsin broadening the role of minimally invasive surgery for the spine.
Conventional methods of spine surgery use large incisions to get through muscles surrounding the spine, allowing surgeons to see and feel the spine, remove bone and disc material, and accurately place fusion devices. Now, refined imaging technology, instruments and devices made just for minimally invasive surgery allow surgeons to operate accurately from a greater distance. After making miniature incisions — about one half inch long — surgeons insert successively larger tubes to stretch, rather than cut muscles. Then, using an endoscope (a long instrument with a tiny camera at the end) to provide imaging, a surgeon applies the same precise procedures to the spine formerly done through large incisions.
Open surgery remains the best method for a number of surgeries, such as taking pressure off nerves, fusions involving lower levels of the spine, and corrective surgery where scarring may already be present. However, minimally invasive surgery reduces post-operative pain, shortens recovery time and speeds return to activities for many people. It may also reduce long-term damage to back muscles. Because the technique is not appropriate for all spine conditions, an experienced, qualified surgeon should carefully evaluate each individual.