What is Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

Rear view of young woman suffering from severe neck ache

For many years, spine surgery was performed as open surgery. However, new technological advances have made it possible for more back and neck conditions to be treated with minimally invasive surgical techniques, which benefit patients in a number of ways, including faster recovery times and reduced risk of complications.


In this blog, the fellowship-trained Manhattan spine specialists at NY Orthopedics’ Spine Center will explain what minimally invasive spine surgery is and when it may be recommended.


What is minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS)?

Instead of the significant, open incision involved in traditional spinal surgeries, minimally invasive spine surgery, also known as MISS, uses a specialized tool called a tubular retractor in order to reach the precise area to be treated. This is a hollow tube that is inserted through a small incision. It allows the surgeon to visualize and access the targeted area while causing less trauma to the surrounding tissue and muscles. Surgical instruments and any necessary surgical hardware such as screws or rods can be inserted through the retractor and the entire procedure is guided by fluoroscopy—a type of real-time X-ray. This allows the spinal surgeon to meticulously repair and treat the affected area with great precision.


Minimally invasive spinal surgery is only considered if conservative therapies have failed to provide successful outcomes, and only if your doctor can pinpoint the exact source of your pain, such as a herniated disc or spinal stenosis. In cases where the exact source of pain can be isolated, the benefits of MISS are substantial. The smaller incision means less damage to the muscles around the spine, reduced risk of complications during surgery, fewer complications post-surgery, and faster recovery times.


Am I a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery?

Not all types of spinal surgery can be performed with minimally invasive techniques. In some cases, traditional surgery or nonsurgical techniques may still be recommended as the primary treatment option.


An experienced spinal specialist should determine the most appropriate type of surgery for your needs, but some of the conditions MISS may be used to treat include:

  • Degenerative disc disease – Despite its name, this is not an actual disease; it is the phrase used to describe normal, but sometimes problematic, age-related changes in the spinal discs. Many conditions can result from degenerative disc disease, including herniated discs and spinal stenosis.
  • Herniated discs – The intervertebral discs of the spine—the “cushions” between the bones—consist of a soft, jelly-like center surrounded by a tough outer layer. A herniated disc occurs when the outer layer is cracked or otherwise damaged and the soft interior protrudes through the damaged area.
  • Lumbar spinal stenosis – A condition characterized by a narrowing of the openings in the vertebrae of the lower back (lumbar region), through which the spinal cord and spinal nerves run. This compresses the nerves, causing pain.
  • Spinal instability – A condition characterized by an abnormal amount of movement between the vertebrae, often due to disc degeneration.
  • Vertebral compression fractures – Fractures that occur due to the total or partial collapse of a vertebra. This is most often due to osteoporosis, but a fracture can also result from a hard fall or other traumatic injury.


In addition, patients suffering from spinal tumors, spinal infections or spinal deformities such as scoliosis may also be potential candidates for MISS.


Where can I find spinal specialists in NYC to learn more about MISS?

NY Orthopedics is home to leading spine specialists in Manhattan. Our spine experts are dedicated to pioneering new approaches to minimally invasive surgery techniques and have many years of experience with treating the most complex spinal conditions.


In addition to our Spine Center, NY Orthopedics also offers an Interventional Pain Medicine Center, which focuses on patients suffering from chronic or acute pain including spinal pain, providing minimally invasive pain treatments to relieve discomfort.


To connect with a spinal specialist to learn more about your treatment options and whether you may be a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery, schedule your appointment at one of NY Orthopedics multiple practice locations in the New York City area today.

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Dr. Jose Rodriguez is no longer practicing at New York Orthopedics as of March 31, 2017. For a full list of our doctors, please visit this page.