Innovative Spine Treatments: Common Procedures at University of Colorado Orthopedics

Common Procedures

For many years, traditional spinal surgery usually involved large incisions up and down the middle of the back, and spreading apart (or retracting) the back muscles to access the spine. Commonly referred to as an open technique, it had the advantage of providing the surgeon with easy access to the spine. But retraction damages the back muscles and can cause significant post-operative pain and extended recovery.

About minimally invasive spine surgery

More and more conditions are now surgically treated using minimally invasive techniques, which allow the surgeon to make smaller incisions in the skin and avoid large muscle retractions. The surgeon uses a scope inserted through a small incision, with a tiny video camera and light connected to the scope that sends images from inside the body to a screen in the operating room. Small tubes are then inserted through other small incisions and surgical instruments are inserted through these tubes and used to perform the procedure.

Advantages of minimally invasive techniques

Minimally invasive spine surgery generally results in the same surgical outcome as with more traditional techniques. However, there are a number of advantages to minimally invasive techniques, including:

  • Reduced operative times
  • Less soft tissue and muscle damage
  • Reduced blood loss
  • Quicker recovery
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Less noticeable and cosmetically more pleasing scarring

These minimally invasive techniques can be used for almost all of the spinal surgeries described below; however, the techniques must match the patient’s needs and sufficient experience with each method is required to succeed.

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