Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery: How Robotics and CT Guidance Facilitate Smaller Incisions

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Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery: How Robotics and CT Guidance Facilitate Smaller Incisions

Each year an estimated 83 million workdays are lost because of debilitating back pain, making pain the No. 1 cause of limitations and work-loss days. If you count yourself among the 16 million adults who experience back pain, not as a one-off issue but as a persistent or chronic problem, finding relief from your pain and getting back to living a pain-free life is a preoccupation.

But what are your options if you’ve tried medication and other treatment options for several months and nothing has worked? It may be time to consider your surgical options, says fellowship-trained, board-certified minimally invasive spine surgeon Neil Bhamb, MD. In this blog, Dr. Bhamb unpacks the variety of surgical options and how they differ so that you can explore what options may be best for you. 

Types of spinal surgery

Let’s start by first acknowledging that the prospects of spine surgery can be both scary and intimidating. That’s a natural reaction. The more you know about what’s available, how they work, and how they can benefit you helps you make an informed decision.

Typically, regardless of what type of surgery you’re talking about, surgeries break down into two major categories: open and minimally invasive surgery. Each type of surgery may also include technical variations or nuances in the execution to assist the surgery. 

Open spine surgery

Traditional open surgery refers to the “opening” or cutting of skin and tissues with a scalpel. In spine surgery, this translates into a long incision down the back, typically about six inches. To get to the surgical treatment area, soft tissue and muscles around the spine need to be moved away. Sometimes the surgeon needs to remove tissue.

In addition to a large incision, muscle retraction, and possible tissue removal, a long surgery time, recovery time and a hospital stay characterize open spine surgery.

Minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS)

In contrast, a less invasive surgical approach to spine surgery is aptly called minimally invasive spine surgery, or MISS. The way MISS plays out is Dr. Bhamb makes a small incision, which he uses to insert a tubular retractor, a less disruptive way to get to the surgical site by creating a channel into the surgery site by separating muscles from the spine to gain access instead of cutting them. He then uses this channel to get the specialized instruments to the surgical site to perform the surgery.

Endoscopic spine surgery (ESS)

Endoscopic spine surgery, or ESS, takes minimally invasive spine surgery to the next level. With ESS, Dr. Bhamb makes tiny incisions as he does for a MISS procedure but uses small tools and a camera or endoscope in tandem with small tubular systems to view the vertebrae so he can surgically correct any spine problems. This surgical approach has the extra benefit of enhancing a standard range of spine mobility post-surgery.

Robotic spine surgery

Another variation added to many spine surgeries is a robotic-assisted technique, which is used with fluoroscopic imaging or CT before and during surgery to help your surgeon determine the best path for the robot at each level of the spine. This approach offers two benefits: higher precision and less invasive.

Numerous benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery

What’s particularly great about minimally-invasive spine surgery as opposed to open spine surgery is that the reduction in the incision size and less trauma to muscle and tissue means less post-surgery pain. Thereby reduced use of pain medication can reduce bleeding, and in turn lower risk of infection. And, as if that weren’t enough, minimally invasive spine surgery results in quicker recovery and reduced hospital stays.

If you suffer from chronic back or neck pain and want to learn if minimally-invasive spine surgery is right for you, contact Dr. Bhamb at our Century City or Marina Del Rey, California, office today to book a consultation. Call or book your appointment online.