Minimally invasive lumbar spinal fusion is similar to traditional lumbar spinal fusion, but it uses smaller incisions and causes less damage to the surrounding tissues during surgery.
As with traditional lumbar spinal fusion, there are many specific techniques available to try to fuse the vertebrae together using minimally invasive techniques. This can be done through the abdomen, from the back, from the side, or with any combination of these.
Minimally invasive lumbar fusion through the abdomen uses four small incisions, approximately ½ inch in length. A fiber optic viewing camera is used, similar to other minimally invasive procedures.
Fusion with screws and rods can be performed through the back using several 1-2 inch incisions. In these cases a series of increasingly larger dilators (hollow tubes with solid inserts) are inserted through the incisions to help spread the muscles apart. Once the muscles have been moved away, the screws and rods can be placed through the dilator tubes. In some cases an operating microscope is used to help the surgeon see more clearly.
One of the most recent advances in minimally invasive lumbar spinal fusion is the ability to perform fusion surgery through the patient's side. There are several techniques that allow the surgeon to make a small incision, approximately 2 inches in the patient's side, directly over the planned fusion site. The muscles are then carefully moved aside, and a series of increasing larger dilators are inserted down to the lumbar spine. Specialized instruments can then be used through the dilator tube to remove the intervertebral disc and place a bone graft or metal or plastic spacer in its place. This technique is typically combined with a procedure from the back to place rods and screws for additional support.
The major advantage of all of these minimally invasive techniques is that there is less damage caused to the surrounding tissues. The minimally invasive techniques can more gently spread through the muscles to allow access to the spine. This is much less painful for the patient, and it does not require as long of a recovery period for the muscle to heal.
Another benefit of less muscle damage is less blood loss and thus a reduced need for blood transfusions using the minimally invasive techniques. There is often less need for narcotic pain medications following this form of surgery.
Pre-operative testing and any other necessary arrangements for your surgery are managed by the Surgical Coordinator. Please contact the Surgical Coordinator with any surgical questions you may have.