Have you ever walked down the beach and walked behind a person with a long scar running down several inches of their spine? It’s probably a result of them having had open surgery on their back. Whether their procedure was to address scoliosis, a spinal cord tumor, or a herniated disc, anybody who has had this type of open surgery likely had an extensive period of bedrest, recovery and recuperation: not only did they have to heal from the area that was the focus of the surgery, but when this type of open surgery is performed, the muscles need to be pulled back, or retracted, and this can contribute to their pain and healing time. Open surgery can also lead to an increased amount of pain, as well as a higher risk of infection.
Pulling the muscle back allows the surgeon access and visualization of the surgical site, so the collateral damage that it creates is considered necessary. However, with the introduction of minimally invasive spine surgery, many of the most common problems with the spine were able to be addressed without the same several-inch-long incision or trauma to muscles. Surgeons are provided with excellent visibility of the surgical field while providing patients with shorter hospital stays, less bleed loss and less risk of infection. Patients are also able to go through these surgeries without needing the same amount of anesthesia that is required in open surgery.
There are several types of procedures that can be performed using minimally invasive surgical procedures, including spinal fusions, decompressions, and microdiscectomies to repair herniated or slipped discs. These surgeries require only a small incision through skin and tissue through which a tubular retractor is inserted: the tube not only holds the muscles back throughout the procedure, but also serves as a passage for the fine surgical tools used to perform the surgery and for organic material that needs to be removed from the body.
Minimally invasive surgery relies on more than the retractor to provide the surgeon with access and visibility. Your surgeon will also use fluoroscopy, a type of x-ray that provides real time images to guide their work. They will also use a tool known as an operating microscope, which both illuminates the surgical field and provides magnification to allow the surgeon to make precise incisions and maneuvers so that they can get directly to the root of the problem and make the required repairs.
Once the procedure is completed, the surgeon will simply remove the tubular retractor and the tissue and muscle that it had separated will fall back to where it was to begin with. The small incision heals quickly and the patient is generally able to return to normal activity with a minimal amount of pain and little risk of bleeding from the incision.
Minimally invasive surgery is possible for many back problems. If you are suffering from back pain, the first step to recovery is making an appointment with our New Jersey spine specialist. Call us today.