Why Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery May be a Better Option Than Traditional Back Surgery

By Adam Lewis, MD

The traditional method of spine surgery, commonly referred to as open surgery, relies on a long incision down the patient’s back to access the affected area. As a result, the muscles and tissue located in the back are often disturbed through this surgical process—and in some cases, tissue is removed entirely.


The Potential Benefits of Minimally Invasive Surgery for Back Problems  

Unlike open surgery, however, Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (MISS) uses smaller incisions that cause less trauma to nearby muscles and tissues. These minimally invasive techniques can be used for several types of spine surgery, including laminectomy, lumbar discectomy, and spinal fusion.

Minimally invasive surgical approaches are often a faster and safer method of treatment in comparison to open surgery. With limited disruption to the surrounding muscles and soft tissues around the procedure site, MISS may be a better option than traditional back surgery for the following reasons:

  • Smaller skin incisions mean better cosmetic results
  • MISS decreases the amount of blood loss from surgery
  • It reduces the risk of damage to the muscle since no cutting is required
  • MISS also minimizes the risk of infection and post-operative pain
  • Patients recover faster and require less rehabilitation following surgery 
  • The procedure diminishes heavy reliance on medication after surgery
  • Further, it can be performed as an outpatient procedure which utilizes only local anesthesia, reducing your risk of having an adverse reaction to general anesthesia

While many patients who have back pain do not need spine surgery, it may be recommended if the problem has not resolved with another treatment such as medication or physical therapy.


He’s Back! How a Minimally Invasive Approach Helped Resurrect Tiger Woods’ Golf Career

The ultimate goal of MISS is to achieve the same outcome as open surgery techniques, while minimizing muscle dissection and damage to the surrounding soft tissues. A prime example of how a minimally invasive procedure may lessen recovery time and improve performance can be found in one of the most famous spinal fusion surgeries in sports history.

In April 2017, professional golfer Tiger Woods underwent spinal surgery to alleviate chronic and severe back and leg pain—using a minimally invasive anterior lumbar interbody fusion. Thanks in part to a minimally invasive anterior approach surgery, Tiger was able to rebound his career and make an impressive comeback to win his 15th major championship at the 2019 Masters Tournament.


About the Author:

Dr. Adam Lewis is the leading neurosurgeon at Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic in Jackson, MS. Dr. Lewis specializes in multiple spinal treatment techniques and applies his extensive background in medicine to develop instrumentation for various spinal procedures that are now utilized to help patients across the country. In addition to running one of the most successful neurosurgery clinics in the country, he is also a highly-respected teacher and speaker in the field of neuroscience.


Opinions expressed herein are those of Dr. Lewis based upon his qualifications as a surgeon and President of Jackson Neurosurgery Clinic.

Important Note: The patient information presented is for general education purposes only. As with any spine surgery, there are potential benefits, complications, and risks associated with disc replacement and spinal fusion procedures. Individual results may vary. It is important that you discuss the possible risks and potential benefits of various procedures with your doctor prior to receiving treatment, and that you rely on your physician’s best judgment. Only your doctor can determine whether you are a suitable candidate for a specific surgical procedure.

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