Spine surgery is traditionally done as "open surgery," meaning the area being operated on is opened with a long incision to allow the surgeon to view and access the anatomy. In recent years, however, technological advances have allowed more back and neck conditions to be treated with a minimally invasive surgical technique.
Minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) is sometimes called less invasive spine surgery. In these procedures, doctors use specialized instruments to access the spine through small incisions.
In a traditional, open surgery, the doctor makes an incision that is 5 to 6 in. long and moves the muscles to the side in order to see the spine. With the muscles pulled to the side, the surgeon can access the spine to remove diseased and damaged bone or intervertebral disks. The surgeon can also easily see to place screws, cages, and any bone graft materials necessary to stabilize the spinal bones and promote healing. One of the major drawbacks of open surgery is that the pulling or "retraction" of the muscle can damage the soft tissue. Although the goal of muscle retraction is to help the surgeon see the problem area, it typically affects more anatomy than the surgeon requires. As a result, there is greater potential for muscle injury, and patients may severe pain after surgery that is different from the back pain felt before surgery. This can lead to a lengthier recovery period.
Minimally invasive spine surgery was developed to treat spine problems with less injury to the muscles and other normal structures in the spine. It also helps the surgeon to see only where the problem exists in the spine. Other advantages to MISS include smaller incisions, less bleeding, and shorter stays in the hospital.