What to Consider When Thinking About Spinal Surgery
The decision to proceed with any surgery is not an easy choice, a spinal surgery is no different. You must consider a variety of factors such as recovery time, steps for rehabilitation, type of procedure, the facility, and the surgeon.
Every surgery presents its own set of risks. When considering spinal surgery, it is difficult not to become uneasy about the process due to the high degree of potential complications and the difficult recovery involved. For this reason, many choose to try alternatives rather than this type of procedure.
One of the main alternatives is minimally invasive spine surgery. Through the usage of specialized techniques and new advances in surgical technology, surgeons can access the spine through a much smaller incision which has less impact on the surrounding soft tissues.
Open Back Surgery
Open back surgery refers to the traditional approach to spine surgery in which a large incision is made to access the surgical site and perform the required procedure. This typically requires cutting and severing the supporting structures around the spine which leads to a longer recovery time and a challenging rehabilitation period.
Due to the invasiveness of the surgery, a patient could also require overnight hospitalization that ranges from one night or more depending on the surgery. This exposes patients to hospital-based infections as well as increased hospital-associated costs.
Increased scarring will occur as a result of the large incision, six to eight inches, needed for this procedure. In some cases, such as traditional open back fusion, this incision may need to be even longer.
Minimally invasive surgery allows the same procedures to be performed while improving patient experience and decreasing recovery time. This also applies to minimally invasive back fusion, which can be performed on an outpatient basis.
After a minimally invasive decompression/stabilization procedure, the patient can expect to be walking within hours. The postoperative team will check the patients’ vitals and ensure the patient is informed of the recovery process as well as incision care before being discharged.
Due to the amount of time to heal supporting muscles, patients can regain function and mobility at a much faster rate compared to open back surgery. Being able to start the rehabilitation process sooner allows for patients to return to daily activities and work faster as well. However, it is critical to follow any recovery instructions properly and wait to be cleared by the surgical team or physician before returning to daily activities.
Minimally Invasive Surgery
An alternative to traditional open back surgery that is worth considering is minimally invasive surgery.
With advances in surgical techniques and microsurgical technologies, surgeons can perform much less invasive spine surgery. A smaller incision, an outpatient procedure, and fewer risks can be expected with this type of surgery.
This procedure does not require the surgeon to open up the back to reach the surgical site due to the use of direct visualization technology. In conjunction, the development of tools and techniques allows muscles to be gently spread or moved aside instead of cutting and severing them.
Considering Spine Surgery
Any type of spine surgery for degenerative spine conditions can be considered once all nonsurgical therapies have been explored. These include but are not limited to:
- Over the counter medications
- Epidural steroid injections
- Physical therapy
When consulting for surgery, patients must always discuss the possibility of undergoing minimally invasive surgery compared to open back surgery. Unfortunately, minimally invasive surgery may not be an alternative for all cases due to certain conditions or preexisting medical conditions. Despite this, the benefits of this type of surgery are significant and should always be considered as a viable option.
Patients will undergo a thorough examination, review of medical history, review of diagnostic imagery, and any other testing required to determine the best course of action.