Minimally invasive spinal procedures

What are minimally invasive spinal procedures?

Minimally invasive spinal procedures refer to surgical procedures on your spine that use very small incisions, rather than one large incision, to perform the operation using specialised instruments. By using several small incisions, the patient experiences less discomfort and pain, and also has a much faster recovery time. Minimally invasive spinal procedures treat issues such as herniated discs, sciatica, fractures caused by osteoporosis and various causes of pain to the neck, back, lower back, or arms.

What does this involve?

When performing minimally invasive spinal procedures, several small incisions are made to access the spine using specialised instruments to perform the procedure necessary to treat your specific problem or condition. Not all patients and issues are suitable to receive minimally invasive procedures, but your consultants should discuss this with you and offer advice on what is best for you.

When will I recover?

Recovery time for minimally invasive spinal procedures is much shorter than large incision, known as open surgery, procedures. You should be able to return home within a few days and possibly on the day of your operation itself. You may only require a few weeks off work depending on the nature of your occupation. You will be left with several small scars but these should heal and subside faster than a large incision scar.

As with many spinal procedures your recovery should be aided by rehabilitation led by an experienced physiotherapist. Rehabilitation will comprise of a series of graded exercises focusing on spinal strengthening, postural control and any flexibility work as is deemed necessary following your assessment.

What risks should I know about?

A minimally invasive spinal procedure is a commonly performed and generally safe procedure but there are some potential complications you should be aware of.  These affect a very small percentage of patients.

  • Infection can occur although our theatres have ultra-clean air operating conditions keeping infection rates to the minimum.
  • Blood clots are possible after any operation and are more common in patients with some pre-existing medical conditions. However, again they affect a very small percentage of patients and have well established treatments including aspirin.
  • Very rarely, damage to the nerves around the spine leading to numbness, pain and in some cases weakness in the legs and feet - this usually settles on its own. 
  • The lower spine may remain stiff and painful or any pre-existing pain or neurological symptoms in the legs remains.

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