The term minimally invasive is used frequently when discussing surgery, especially when it involves the neck or back. However, “minimally invasive” can sometimes confuse patients. What exactly does minimally invasive mean? What does it mean in terms of recovery? While these general rules will apply to any minimally invasive surgery, it can help to speak to a spine and neck surgeon such as Dr. Solomon Kamson of the Spine Institute Northwest to determine what minimally invasive means for a specific type of surgery.
What Does Minimally Invasive Mean?
In an open surgery, a surgeon will usually make an incision that is 5 to 6 inches long. Then, the surgeon pulls the muscle in this area aside to reach the area they are performing surgery on. This has a higher risk of damaging muscle tissue, which can increase postoperative pain and recovery time, in comparison to minimally invasive surgery.
In contrast, minimally invasive surgery requires only a small incision to be made by the surgeon. Advancements in medical technology allow the entire surgery to be performed through this small incision. Once the incision has been made, the surgeon uses special operating tools and guiding technology, such as an endoscope or microscopic camera. In some cases, the incisions are as small as 2 centimeters.
Minimally invasive surgeries are approved for use treating many back and neck conditions. These include degenerative disc disease, lumbar spinal stenosis, spinal deformities and infections, vertebral compression fractures, herniated discs, spinal tumors, and more.
What are the Benefits of Minimally Invasive Surgery?
There are many benefits to minimally invasive surgery, including better cosmetic results (less scarring), less surgical blood loss, faster recovery, less rehabilitation, and reduced risk of muscle damage, infection, and postoperative pain. Minimally invasive surgery allows for better cosmetic results because incisions are smaller and take less time to heal, so that there is not a large scar. Additionally, minimally invasive surgery reduces the trauma to muscles and soft tissue because it requires little to no cutting of this area. This causes all the other benefits.
Another possible benefit to minimally invasive surgery is a shorter operating time, and the possibility of not needing anesthesia. Many minimally invasive surgeries can be performed as outpatient procedures. These are performed with only a local anesthetic. The patient does not have to be put under, and can have their surgery completed in a short amount of time.
How Fast Does a Patient Recover from Minimally Invasive Surgery?
The recovery time for minimally invasive surgery varies depending on the particular surgery and the patient involved. The procedures for minimally invasive surgery require little to no muscle to be cut. This significantly reduces the amount of recovery time, in comparison to open surgery methods. In addition to less recovery time, the physical therapy process will also be shorter.
What are the Risks Associated with Minimally Invasive Surgery?
Similarly to any other surgical procedure, there are potential risks associated with minimally invasive surgery. These include adverse reaction to the anesthetic, unexpected blood loss, and localized infections. While the likelihood of adverse reaction to the anesthetic is the same as any other type of surgery, other risks are reduced. Minimally invasive surgery reduces the risk of unexpected blood loss and localized infections.