What is Minimally Invasive Surgery?

The spine specialists at Swift Institute in Reno, Sparks, and Carson City are experienced in exhausting non-surgical treatments for back or neck pain before exploring spine surgery options. Several weeks of recovery may be required for traditional “open” spine surgery as it may involve a three-inch long incision, in which muscles and tissues are separated for optimal access to the injury site. The surgery usually results in trauma to surrounding tissues and some blood loss. Because of this the affected tissues and muscles need adequate healing time.

Spine surgery then home, same day

The neurosurgeons at Swift Spine Institute use the latest minimally invasive techniques and instrumentation to help patients recover in a shorter period of time and allow for a quicker return home. Innovative developments in minimally invasive techniques have pioneered better ways for the surgeon to access the spine, moreover making the recovery process more seamless. Dr. Lynch has been performing minimally invasive spine surgery techniques since 2002. He was the first neurosurgeon in Reno to perform MIS TLIF and MAS PLIF procedures as well as the first to perform both cervical and lumbar artificial disc replacements. He is a national leader in outpatient spine surgery.

In minimally invasive spine surgery, a smaller incision is made, sometimes only a half-inch in length. The surgeon inserts special surgical instruments through these tiny incisions to access the damaged disc in the spine. Entry and repair to the damaged disc or vertebrae is achieved without harming nearby muscles and tissues when using minimally invasive techniques.

Minimally invasive spine surgery requires extensive training and experience to master use of the tools, but there is tremendous benefit for the patient. “The incision is shorter, which means you aren’t cutting through as much muscle and tissue to get access to the damaged area of the spine,” explains Dr. Lynch.

About minimally invasive equipment and techniques

All of the surgical equipment used in minimally invasive spine surgery must be able to pass through a keyhole-sized portal.

These portals are left in during the entire surgery to allow specially designed surgical tools to move freely into the patient’s spinal column and not to damage the soft tissue from exiting and inserting equipment.

When the portal is removed at the end of the surgery, the surrounding soft tissues slowly fall back into their normal place and only require a small amount of stitches to close the area.

Some surgical procedures of MIS of the thoracic spine may require the anesthesiologist to specifically deflate the lung closest to the operating area and the patient will breathe with the other lung throughout the entire procedure. It is considered a very common practice in order to allow more space for the spine surgeon to operate within the thoracic spine.

Benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery include:

  • Smaller incision and smaller scar
  • Less damage to tissues and muscles
  • Less blood loss
  • Less post-operative pain
  • Less painful recovery
  • Quicker return to activity

Unlike many other spine care providers, the spine patients who undergo minimally invasive surgery at Swift Spine Institute can often have their surgery on an outpatient basis and be home later the same day. The spine surgeons at Swift Spine Institute partner with the Surgery Center of Reno to perform minimally invasive spine surgery, enabling many patients to go home the same day. Recovery in one’s own home can be more comfortable than staying in a hospital bed.

The Surgery Center of Reno is the only free-standing surgery center in Reno that has direct hospital access if the need arises to transfer to a higher level of care. The ambulatory surgery center is connected by underground tunnel to the intensive care unit at Saint Mary’s Hospital if the need arises. Other off-site surgery centers often need an ambulance to transport the patient to a major hospital.

Below are some commonly asked questions about MIS:

What is involved with a minimally invasive procedure?

Minimally invasive spine surgery uses a small hole the size of a dime to allow a special endoscope with a constant video feed inserted in the hole to access the damaged area of the spine.

What is a Minimally Invasive Tubular Rectractor?

A minimally invasive tubular retractor (MITR) is used to gain access to the spinal column. The device goes through a small keyhole in the muscles of the back, reducing damage to the spine where as normal open back surgery pulls the muscles away from the spine causing soft tissue damage. This device also helps control blood loss since it is not as harsh on the body than the alternative procedure.

What is a fluoroscopy?

A fluoroscopy will be used to show continuous x-ray images on a monitor showing current movement of a surgical tool or dye (contrast agent) throughout the patient’s body.

Can all spine problems be treated using a minimally invasive approach?

Minimally invasive spine surgery cannot be used for all surgeries. Some procedures, like scoliosis surgery or reconstructive scoliosis surgery, require a very long incision to be able to insert special parts to be attached to the spine.

How do I know if minimally invasive surgery is right for me?

The patient needs to be evaluated by a leading spine surgeon in the field and an expert in MIS techniques to determine if their treatment options include MIS. Not every spinal procedure or patient is a candidate for MIS.

Are there risks involved with minimally invasive surgery?

Some of the risks associated with MIS and spine surgery in general include adverse reactions to the anesthetic, blood loss, infection, blood clots, pneumonia, instrumentation tools causing damage to spine and surrounding tissues, and even paralysis (extremely rare in major spinal surgeries).

Are there steps a patient can take to reduce the risk involved of any spine surgery, including minimally invasive surgery?

If the patient has exhausted all non-surgical options and decides on a minimally invasive spine surgery procedure, it is important for the patient to stop smoking, stop taking non-essential medications that could cause an adverse reactive during surgery, and exercise regularly to increase your body’s immune system to help speed up recovery time. Make sure to ask your spine surgeons any questions or concerns that you may have.

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