Minimally Invasive Lumbar Spinal Fusion

  • Medical Author:
    Jason C. Eck, DO, MS

    Dr. Eck received a Bachelor of Science degree from the Catholic University of America in Biomedical Engineering, followed by a Master of Science degree in Biomedical Engineering from Marquette University. Following this he worked as a research engineer conducting spine biomechanics research. He then attended medical school at University of Health Sciences. He is board eligible in orthopaedic surgery.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

How effective is minimally invasive lumbar spinal fusion?

The results for the minimally invasive lumbar spinal fusion through the abdomen have not been as good as the traditional open anterior (from the front of the spine) fusion techniques. The success of the fusion has been less reliable, the operative times are longer and there are increased risks of injury to the nerves using the minimally invasive techniques. Because of this, many surgeons have stopped using this technique.

The results of the minimally invasive procedures through the back have been much more promising. Experienced surgeons are able to perform lumbar spinal fusion through the back quicker, with similar fusion rates, less blood loss, and quicker recovery times than using traditional techniques.

The newer minimally invasive lumbar spinal fusion techniques though the patient's side are still being refined. The initial techniques had some increased risk of damage to nerves, but more recent changes have made these even safer and more effective. The results so far are very promising for this technique, but there have been a limited number of studies. Additionally, since this was only recently developed, there are fewer surgeons performing this technique.

Am I a candidate for minimally lumbar invasive spinal fusion?

First, you and your doctor need to determine if you are a candidate for spinal fusion. Remember, the majority of patients with low back pain recover within six weeks regardless of treatment. If you have had prolonged symptoms you should see your physician. If it is decided you may need surgery you will be referred to a spinal surgeon for further evaluation. If a fusion is thought to be potentially beneficial for you, the option of minimally invasive techniques can then be discussed with your surgeon.

Medically reviewed by Aimee V. HachigianGould, MD; American Board of Orthopaedic Surgery


Chou, Roger, M.D> "Subacute and chronic low back pain: Surgical treatment." Mar. 11, 2016.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 9/8/2016

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