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Is Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery Right for You?
Is Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery Right for You?

Minimally invasive spinal surgery (MISS) differs from traditional open spinal surgery in two important ways.  The incision made by the neurosurgeon will be smaller, and the instruments or tools used in the surgery will be smaller.  The benefits of minimally invasive spinal surgery over open surgery are significant for the patient.  Since less surrounding tissue and muscle is impacted, the patient’s recovery time is generally shorter.  There is often less pain following surgery, and healing is faster.  Patients may spend less time in the hospital.  Some patients may be allowed to go home the same day as their procedure.  Other potential benefits of minimally invasive spinal surgery include less blood loss, a reduced risk of infection, faster rehabilitation, less need for pain medications, and a smaller surgical scar.

While minimally invasive spinal surgery is not recommended for all spinal conditions, there are a number of conditions which may be treated in that way.  During minimally invasive spinal surgery, tubes are inserted through small incisions to move muscles out of the way and expose the area to be treated.  This avoids having to cut the muscles.  A thin instrument with a video camera, called an endoscope, is inserted to send images from inside the body.  Tiny surgical instruments are used to perform the needed procedure. 

The following procedures are often performed using minimally invasive techniques.

Lumbar spinal stenosis

In spinal stenosis, nerves become compressed due to a narrowing of the spinal canal.  This can result in severe sciatica, or pain that radiates through the buttocks and down one or both legs.  The condition may cause numbness in the legs or buttocks.  Cramping may occur in the calves when walking.  In severe cases, bladder or bowel control may be compromised.  A lumbar laminectomy or lumbar decompression may be performed using minimally invasive techniques.

Herniated disc

A herniated disc is sometimes referred to as a bulging, slipped, or ruptured disc.  A nearby nerve becomes irritated, causing pain, tingling, numbness, or weakness in an arm or leg.  Minimally invasive surgical techniques may be used to address the disc problem.

Fractured vertebra

A fractured vertebra may be the result of an injury or a consequence of osteoporosis.  Two types of minimally invasive spinal surgeries can address this problem.  During vertebroplasty, a bone cement mixture is injected into the fracture.  In kyphoplasty, a balloon is inflated into the fracture and then filled with a bone cement mixture.


This sideways curvature of the spine occurs in children and adolescents.  Additionally, adults can also have degenerative scoliosis.  Minimally invasive surgery for scoliosis involves attaching rods and screws to the spine to help straighten it.


This is a defect or stress fracture that causes instability of the spine.  It most often affects the low back.  Minimally invasive surgery may include inserting a screw to hold both sides of the fracture together.  A bone graft may be used for further support.

Anterior and posterior lumbar interbody fusions

These procedures are performed for painful spinal conditions including degenerative disc disease and spondylolisthesis.  An anterior fusion is often used when multiple levels need to be fused.

Spinal tumors

Some malignant and non-malignant spinal tumors may be removed through minimally invasive procedures.

The expert surgeons at Atlanta Brain and Spine Care have considerable experience in minimally invasive spinal surgical techniques.  They developed the retractor system now used by many surgeons performing posterior lumbar interbody fusions.  Schedule a consultation to find out whether minimally invasive spinal surgery is right for your condition.   

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