Minimally-Invasive Spine Surgery

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Spine surgery is traditionally done as "open surgery," meaning the area being operated on is opened with a long incision to allow the surgeon to view and access the anatomy. In recent years, however, technological advances have allowed more back and neck conditions to be treated with a minimally invasive surgical technique.

What is Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (MISS)?

MISS can be referred to as a less invasive spine surgery which can be performed on the cervical, thoracic, and lumbar spine. Whether it is a herniated disc or spinal stenosis, specialized instruments can be used to access the spine in a less harmful or less invasive way.

Because minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) does not involve a long incision, it avoids significant damage to the muscles surrounding the spine. In most cases, this results in less pain after surgery and a faster recovery time. Other advantages include smaller incisions, less bleeding, and shorter stays in the hospital.

Common Procedures

Minimally invasive techniques are beginning to be used for a wider range of spine procedures, and have been used for common procedures like decompression and spinal fusion since the 1990s. Decompression relieves pressure put on spinal nerves by removing portions of bone or a herniated disk. Spinal fusion corrects problems with the small bones of the spine (vertebrae). The basic idea is to fuse together the painful vertebrae so that they heal into a single, solid bone.

Surgery Description

MISS fusions and decompression procedures (such as discectomy and laminectomy) are performed with special tools called tubular retractors. During the procedure, a small incision is made and the tubular retractor is inserted through the skin and soft tissues down to the spinal column. This creates a tunnel to the small area where the problem exists in the spine. The tubular retractor holds the muscles open and is kept in place throughout the procedure. This minimally invasive technique allows for discectomy, laminectomy, MIS TLIF (transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion), DLIF (direct lateral interbody fusion), and XLIF (extreme lateral interbody fusion). In particular for discectomy and laminectomy, MISS is not limited to just the lumbar spine. Minimally invasive cervical spine surgery can be performed through a tube as well, allowing the surgeon to perform simple discectomies, foraminotomies, and decompressions.

Spine surgery performed through a tube is one form of minimally invasive spine surgery. Other methods of less invasive surgery have include endoscopic spine surgery and laser spine surgery, which are advanced minimally invasive techniques that allow for even smaller incisions, fewer complications, and faster recovery.


The goal is to get patients back on their feet so they can return to an active lifestyle. Whether it is getting back to work, enjoying time outdoors, or spending time with family and friends, minimally invasive spine surgery can accomplish all of this in a safer way.

Minimally invasive surgeries typically shorten the hospital duration time of patients, but the exact length of time needed will vary from patient to patient based off the individual’s response and specific procedure. However, MISS patients on average go home within 1 to 2 days (sometimes even on the same day) while patients receiving traditional surgery stay in the hospital for roughly 3 to 5 days. This is due to the fact that minimally invasive techniques preserve the muscles, soft tissues, and structures in the spine. Pain is significantly less than that of traditional open surgeries and patients are able to regain strength and recover faster after MISS.

In order to regain strength and recover faster, your doctor may recommend physical therapy and specific exercises so that you may be strong enough to return to work and daily activities. Since every patient and disease process is unique, a consultation with your Resurgens Spine Surgeon can help you decide which technique would be most beneficial for you.