Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
Our surgeons are truly at the leading edge of minimally invasive spine surgery. Elsewhere, many spinal surgeries are still done traditionally, requiring long incisions and lengthy recoveries. Here, at the University of Chicago Medicine, the majority of spine surgeries are done through a few tiny cuts. Patients suffer much less pain and are back to their normal activities in a few days to weeks, depending on the surgery. With open surgery, recovery can take months to a year in some cases.
Benefits to Consider
No other medical center in the United States currently treats as many back and neck problems as we do using minimally invasive approaches. Our premier surgeons can stabilize painful joints, decompress pinched nerves, fuse bones, and correct deformities--all through small incisions.
All of these minimally invasive procedures are performed using a tool called an endoscope, which is a thin tube that has a tiny video camera on the end of it. The surgeon inserts the endoscope through a small cut and guides it to the problem area. Muscles are then dilated apart, rather than cut, and the operation is performed with minimal injury to any surrounding tissues. Throughout the operation, the tiny video camera on the end of the endoscope projects large-scale images of the spine onto a video screen, helping the surgeon see what is going on.
Minimally invasive spine surgery offers the same post-surgical benefits as traditional spine surgery--but with much less trauma. A smaller incision is not the only advantage. Using an endoscope, the surgeon does not need to move, or "retract," the major muscles on the back, which is necessary during open spine surgery. So, patients are spared the pain and scarring that can develop after muscle retraction. Patients also require much less anesthesia during minimally invasive procedures. In addition, hospital stays are dramatically shorter. Many patients are able to go home the same day after endoscopic spine surgery. Open spine surgery usually requires four to five days in the hospital.
At the Forefront of Technology
Our surgeons can even perform very complex spinal surgeries using minimally invasive techniques. For instance, they can remove hard-to-reach spinal tumors through tiny incisions. They can also place some types of spinal instrumentation, or screws and rods, to help stabilize and fuse the spine.
How can the surgeons see well enough through tiny incisions to perform such complex procedures? It's possible thanks to computer-assisted image guidance systems, some of which were developed here at the University of Chicago. In some cases, detailed 3-D computer models of a patient's spine are created from CT or MRI data. These sophisticated stereotactic techniques allow our surgeons to "see" the spine through a patient's skin without making a large incision. In other cases, cameras located deep in the body show high-quality pictures of the operative field, allowing the surgeon to perform the operation through a tiny incision, while watching it on the TV monitor. Each of these techniques provide for safe, surgical procedures with much less pain.
Our world-respected spine surgeons began using minimally invasive techniques years before other surgeons did. In fact, one of our premier spine surgeons helped develop many of the endoscopic techniques that are currently used to treat back and neck problems around the country.