You bend over and hear a pop in your back and then it’s nearly impossible to stand up. The pain is excruciating. There’s a burning sensation down your right leg. You have a ruptured disk and sciatica. Again. You’ve tried physical therapy, painkillers and heat. On many occasions over the years. It’s time for back surgery. But you can’t afford to take off work for months to recuperate. What are you going to do?
There’s a less traumatic, less intrusive, less painful option for back surgery available at Scott & White’s Spine Center at Hillcrest in Waco and The Neuroscience Institute at Scott & White in Temple. It’s called Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery. It’s a high-tech alternative for back surgery that’s much easier on your body, and the recovery time is a whole lot faster.
Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery is a form of endoscopic surgery, where your orthopedic surgeon uses a tiny video camera attached to a long tube to help perform your back surgery. Small incisions are made in your back, instead of one long one, and the skin and muscles are kept attached to your bones. You will have a few small scars instead of one large one.
This less-invasive approach is used to repair herniated and compressed disks and to fuse degenerative ones, and it’s used in spinal decompression and stabilization procedures, as well as to correct some forms of scoliosis and other spinal problems.
With lights, camera, the long tube and a video monitor, your surgeon can accomplish your back surgery with much less damage done to the nerves, muscles, and tissues of your back and with much less pain to you. You won’t lose as much blood and your risk of infection is much lower than with conventional open-back surgery.
“When the spine is exposed in a traditional open-back approach,” explains Gregory Elders, MD, Scott & White Orthopedic Surgeon, at the Spine Center at Hillcrest in Waco, “the back muscles are usually peeled off of the spine to expose your backbone. There are several consequences to this. First, as you could imagine, it’s painful, and it can take quite a while to recover from the surgery. The hospital stay is long, and it can take a long time to rehabilitate from the surgery. The process is very traumatic to those muscles that are being dissected and pulled to the sides. Inevitably, there is some damage to the nerves and scarring within those muscles as a result.”
However, with Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery, because you have tiny incisions (usually one-half to one centimeter long) rather than a wide-open back, you will experience much less post-operative pain and you may not even have to spend the night in the hospital; if you do, your stay will usually be short. Also, your recovery time will be much quicker, maybe half the time or less. You will likely see significant improvement in a few weeks to a few months after your surgery, rather than a year or more, and often you’ll be ready to return to an active lifestyle within a few months of surgery.
Dr. Elders said, “I find that patients tend to be very pleased with the results. Of course, every patient’s experience is unique, but because the early recovery period from the procedure can be so rapid, it is not uncommon for patients to return for their first post-operative appointment at two weeks already feeling better than they have in years. In fact, sometimes I find that patients feel so good following the procedure that it becomes my challenge to keep them from becoming too active too early.”
Not all patients are candidates for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery; contact The Spine Center at Hillcrest at 254-297-0500 or The Neuroscience Institute at Scott & White in Temple at 254-724-2475 for more information and evaluation. As with any surgery, there are certain risks involved. Your surgeon will discuss these risks with you.