When someone mentions spine surgery, most people will think that it is a major surgery and involves mostly elderly patients. In fact, people who have spine problem can be young or old can have corrective minimally invasive surgery (MIS) for congenital defects, adventurous activities, extreme sport injuries, or automobile accidents, as well as tumors in the spine and nervous system and degenerative bone diseases.
Primary treatment plan includes medication, physical therapy, or acupuncture. Surgery is mostly reserved for indications where it is necessary because the goal is to reduce the compression on the nerves to loosen the spine or stabilize the connections with MIS. By using this technique, it reduces muscle damage leading to quicker recovery for the patient after surgery.
MIS is a cutting-edge surgical technology that uses a microscope, an endoscope, to insert through small incisions to view the surgical site without having to open up the entire site. The scope and surgical tools can reach the spine, from the front, or the side with computer-assisted guidance from the beginning all the way to the insertion of metal plates without having to perform open surgery.
MIS reduces blood loss and reduces the rate of infection so patients require less recovery time and can return to their normal routines quicker. It does not destroy the spine structure, but rather preserves spine movement in the same condition. This is in contrast to the older method where spine surgery can result in unnatural spine motion and movement.
One of the most common spine problems is herniated disc that can occur in patients of all ages, from children and teenagers to the working population and senior citizens. For example, in the old days, a congenital spine and structural defect would have required open surgery to place metal rods to correct the curvature. Now, MIS can be performed on these patients as well as patients who suffered automobile trauma that caused compression, fracture or herniated disc that leads to chronic pain and lack of strength.
Most younger patients that require spine surgery had some physical trauma, such as automobile collision that caused displacement or fracture, playing extreme sports, motorcycle or bicycle accident, playing rugby, football, basketball or American football, horse riding, jet skiing, bungy jumping, or riding a bumpy speed boat that cause spinal compression. Other activities include amusement park rides, such as roller coasters, or power shots that produce high torque and pressure on the spine, similar to someone falling from a high place. Although they may be young, the spine can get compressed upon vertical impact. In contrast, older patients tend to experience spine problems from degeneration.
Spinal Cord Tumor
Although spinal cord tumor does not affect a large number of patients, but it requires surgical intervention. There are two types of tumors: benign and malignant. If the tumor is benign and does not lead to malignancy, surgery is suitable in cases where radiation or chemotherapy may not be suitable. For patients who have malignant tumor, treatment depends on the stage of cancer. If it is in the early stages, corrective surgery can be performed. However, spinal involvement tends to come from metastatic cancer rather than primary spinal cord tumor. Thus, the reason for surgery in such cases is to improve the quality of life for the patients so that they have less pain, can move better, or gain strength and preserve urinary continence.
Surgery in such case is the primary choice so that the pathology of disease can be determined to plan the next course of treatment. Surgery allows for pathological diagnosis of the removed tissue.
Indications of surgical intervention are to reduce nerve compression, to repair the loose spine, to correct curvatures, to remove a tumor, as well as to treat infection that cannot be sufficiently treated by medication alone. For example, spinal fluid needs to be tapped for culture.
Signs That You Should Visit a Doctor
- Pain that radiates down the nerves, such as from the neck to the shoulder or arm, or from the hip down the legs
- Muscle weakness in the hand, arm, shoulder, leg, knee, or ankle
- Weight loss, fever
- Abnormal bleeding that should be monitored, such as coughing up blood, back pain, abnormal bowel movement from spinal compression, or back pain in conjunction with an abdominal mass
MIS Spine Surgery
MIS Spine surgery can be performed on any condition that has an indication for surgical intervention. Although the duration of surgery is the same as open surgery, but MIS has advantages over open surgery since it requires less time to heal. However, it requires finesse to use the surgical tools in cases where muscle weakness occurs so the patient can recover quicker. On the other hand, if a patient prolongs treatment, there is a chance that muscle atrophy can occur. In such case, recovery may take longer. Physical therapy will be necessary to rehabilitate the muscle. Hence, recovery time depends on how long the condition persisted prior to surgery. So if a patient experiences muscle weakness, it is best to consult a doctor immediately rather than wait until it is too late.