Minimally Invasive Lumbar Spinal Fusion (cont.)

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What are the advantages of minimally invasive lumbar spinal fusion?

The major advantage of all of these minimally invasive techniques is that there is less damage caused to the surrounding tissues. Unfortunately, in traditional spinal surgery it is necessary to cut through muscles and move them out of the way in order to reach the spine. This can cause a large amount of pain following surgery, and it can lengthen the recovery time. Instead of cutting and moving muscles, the minimally invasive techniques can more gently spread through the muscles to allow access to the spine. This is much less painful for the patient, and it does not require as long of a recovery period for the muscle to heal.

Another benefit of less muscle damage is less blood loss and thus a reduced need for blood transfusions using the minimally invasive techniques. There is often less need for narcotic pain medications following this form of surgery, and a shorter hospital stay.

What is the disadvantage of minimally invasive lumbar spinal fusion?

As with any new technique, one of the major disadvantages is the additional time needed to perform the procedure. While a surgeon may be very comfortable with the traditional surgical fusion techniques, it will take time to be able to achieve the same outcome using these new methods. Surgeons with more experience can now perform lumbar spinal fusion in equal or even less time than with the traditional techniques.

Not all surgeons perform these techniques, so it may not be available from your current surgeon or in your area. Because this is a relatively new technique, many insurance companies consider this to be an investigational surgery and do not provide insurance coverage for it, so a patient should check with the insurer prior to surgery regarding coverage.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/18/2014

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