By Dr. Gaurav Gujarathi, Orthopaedics
Surgery on the spine is typically performed as an open surgery. This implies that the surgery is performed by making a large incision that allows the surgeon to do the surgery while seeing the spine. However, advancements in medicine have helped surgeons operate on the spine through minimally invasive surgical techniques. This type of surgery involves making a few small incisions instead of a large incision through which the surgeon inserts specially designed instruments to operate on the spine.
Minimally invasive surgery has a number of benefits. Primary amongst these benefits is shortened recovery time. Faster healing is also associated with lesser pain. It also causes less muscle damage. Since the incisions are smaller than normal, they heal faster than a large incision. Smaller incisions also reduce the risk of infections.
There are many different types of minimally invasive surgical techniques. A minimally invasive surgery may be used to treat issues such as spinal fusion and lumbar decompression. These are typically performed only when medication and other forms of non-invasive therapy such as physical therapy have been unsuccessful. Surgery is also advised only when the surgeon can pinpoint the exact cause of the issue.
Like open surgery, minimally invasive procedures on the spine are also performed while the patient is under general anesthesia. The most common minimally invasive surgical procedure involves the use of a tubular retractor. This creates a tunnel from the incision site to the part of the spine to be operated on by pushing the muscles around instead of cutting them. The surgeon can then use the retractor to access the spine with the use of special instruments. Any bone shrapnel or disk material that must be removed can also be taken out through the retractor. Similarly, any rods or screws that need to be inserted into the spine can also be transported through the retractor. Surgeons may also use an endoscope to access the problem area in the spine.
As with any other surgical procedure, there are a few risks associated with minimally invasive surgery. Some patients may experience slight bleeding after the procedure and pain at the bone graft site. The surgery may also cause an infection which can be treated with antibiotics. Blood clots are a rare complication associated with such surgeries. If they travel up to the lungs, it could be significantly dangerous. In rare cases, the blood vessels or nerves around the surgery site can also be damaged during the surgery.