Each year, nearly 200,000 Americans undergo fusion surgery with hopes to relieve pain from complicated degenerative disc disease and spondylolisthesis. The surgical outcomes are often unpredictable, and success is not guaranteed. Innovative developments in minimally invasive techniques have pioneered better ways for the surgeon to access the spine, moreover making the recovery process more seamless. In time, such techniques are expected to replace conventional surgical approaches.
Several weeks of recovery may be required for traditional “open” spine surgery as it may involve a three-inch long incision, in which muscles and tissues are separated for optimal access to the injury site. The surgery usually results in trauma to surrounding tissues and considerable blood loss; because of this the affected tissues and muscles need adequate healing time.
With the objective of least interruption to the patient’s regular, active lifestyle, minimally invasive surgical techniques provide the opportunity to successfully treat back problems. These surgical methods have achieved results similar to those of conventional “open surgery.” A smaller incision is made, sometimes only a half-inch in length. The surgeon inserts special surgical instruments through these tiny incisions and probes in order to access the damaged disc in the spine. Entry and repair to the damaged disc or vertebrae is achieved without harming nearby muscles and tissues when using minimally invasive techniques. Additional advantages of minimally invasive techniques include reduced surgery duration and recovery time, as well as less pain, blood loss and visible scars.
With the introduction of minimal access spinal technologies (MAST), spine surgeons have the opportunity to create the least amount of invasion possible, while at the same time accomplish identical results as open spine surgery. Due to the acute accuracy provided by these tools, surgeons create a smaller surgical work area.
Oftentimes, bone is acquired from the hip of a patient during traditional fusion procedures. Unfortunately, this process may cause pain and discomfort rivaling the actual surgery. Alternatively, it has been introduced to utilize BMP, also known as “bone morphogenetic protein”, a bone-growth substance and eliminate the need for harvesting bone from a person’s hip.
Trace protein extracts are found in bones and are required for the bone to heal or regenerate. A sufficient amount of the protein must be available in order to begin bone formation. Scientists have developed a usable form of BMP that is now being used in place of bone harvested from a patient’s hip. This bone graft is made from pure bone protein (minerals and collagen) and absorbable collagen sponge that promotes new bone formation. Studies show that the positive results achieved from surgery using BMP equal that of an autograft procedure (in which bone is taken from the hip).
Spine surgery is commonly a last resort alternative, after all nonsurgical methods have been exhausted, or when complications such as severely herniated discs or damaged vertebrae simply will not respond to nonsurgical treatments. With this knowledge, the ultimate goal of spine treatment is to reach the root of the problem, while causing the least amount of disruption to the patient’s lifestyle.
In cases when surgery is the right course of action, it is vital for you to play an active role in selecting the best spine surgeon for you. You should seek out a surgeon that specializes in spine problems rather than one that is non-specialized and conversely treats a wide variety of injuries, such as head, knee and shoulder. As with anything else, practice makes perfect. The more a person does something, the more second nature it becomes.