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Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery: What It Means to Me
When you think of spine surgery, a long incision along your back is probably what comes to mind. That can scare away even the most courageous patients from undergoing surgery to repair their spinal problems. Medical advancements have improved upon the traditional “open surgery” involving a long incision for the surgeon to access the spine; minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) avoids the risks and hassles associated with treatment by employing specialized instruments to achieve very small incisions.
Spine surgery is usually only performed after various nonsurgical treatments have been unsuccessful. Physical therapy and medications are just two of the treatments used before deciding to pursue surgery. Dr. Fischer at NYU Langone Medical Center in New York City is able to help patients by identifying the exact source of pain, prescribing and monitoring any applicable nonsurgical methods, and then performing MISS if that’s the best recommendation.
Minimally invasive techniques are an important advancement in spine surgeries. Traditional surgery means a 5-6 inch incision and moving the muscles to the side to gain spine access. Retracting the muscle creates a great risk for damage to the soft tissue, and results in significant pain after surgery and long recovery time. MISS causes less muscle damage, less bleeding, smaller incisions, shorter hospital stays, and faster recovery.
MISS techniques are being used for more and more procedures. Two common procedures are decompression (relieving pressure on nerves by eliminating a herniated disc or bone fragments) and spinal fusion (fusing together painful vertebrae to become one solid bone). Specialized tools are used to aid in these advanced MISS procedures, such as tubular retractors, microscopes, and fluoroscopes that provide real-time X-ray images during surgery.
As with any surgery, risks are involved with MISS. These can include infection (although there is a proven lower infection rate with MISS compared to open surgery), pain, recurring symptoms, blood clots, or nerve damage. Most complications are rare with MISS however. Dr. Fischer will explain all of the risks associated with MISS and give you the necessary comfort level about whether the surgery is right for you.
Most MISS patients go home from the hospital in 2-3 days, a shorter stay than with traditional surgery. Recovery begins immediately, with less post-operative pain. Physical therapy will likely be part of your recovery plan to help you regain strength and return to your normal activities as quickly as possible. New York City spine surgeon Dr. Fischer will monitor you during recovery to ensure you progress as expected. After MISS, it’s likely that you can get back to living your life without having to deal with nagging back pain.