The Truth About Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

If you have had back or neck surgery in the past few years, or if you suffer from neck or low back pain, you’ve probably heard about ‘minimally invasive spine surgery,’ which we’ll call MIS surgery here in Dr. Massey’s blog. What you may not know is how MIS is defined, who is actually qualified to perform it, and when it is an appropriate choice for you.

MIS surgeries are performed by both neurosurgeons and orthopedic spine surgeons. It is of course your job as the potential patient to make sure your surgeon is properly trained, and you should routinely ask your doctor how they were trained, how many of these operations he or she has performed, and with what success and complication rates.

MIS surgery is a philosophical approach to spine surgery in which the surgeon attempts to treat disorders of the spine and nerves with less damage to normal tissue than a standard, open procedure for the same problem. This means that the problem you are having surgery for is addressed via a shorter incision, with less blood loss, shorter operative times, and quicker recovery times than the “open,” or traditional surgery.

It is very important to understand that there is no guarantee that a MIS surgical procedure will produce a better outcome than a traditional approach. The ultimate decision as to whether your problem can be managed best by MIS surgery or open surgery depends on your anatomy, previous surgeries you have had, and the judgment and experience of your surgeon.

Let me close by saying this: successfully performing MIS surgery requires special training, years of experience working with microscopes, endoscopes, and ports, and a surgeon willing to constantly strive to improve and evolve their skills. Before you allow someone to cut into your body, research them, ask for patients you can talk with who have had similar procedures, and seek second opinions.

W. Lee Warren, MD
Auburn Spine and Neurosurgery Center
Auburn, Alabama