Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

The advantages of minimally invasive surgery are nothing less than revolutionary. Compared to the standard open approach, minimally invasive spine surgery involves smaller incisions, less muscle damage, decreased blood loss and length of hospital stay following surgery. Boulder Neurological Associates surgeons are committed to advancing the field and offering innovative ways to solve our patients’ health problems. We were the first practice in the region performing minimally invasive spine fusions. BNA surgeons are heavily involved in research in this field and have since pioneered methods that been adopted worldwide. Our landmark publications reported on minimally invasive vs. open fusion  and unilateral pedicle screw method and have confirmed half the blood loss and shorter hospital stays compared to open surgeries.

Lumbar fusion is one of the most effective and time-proven procedures. It effectively decreases back pain by eliminating motion at the painful spine segment. However, the surgical methods of performing this fusion are not without risks. Standard old-school, anterior-posterior surgical approaches require large incisions and are associated with significant morbidity. Similarly, the standard of care posterolateral fusions requires a large incision and involves stripping the large bands of muscle tissue from the underlying spinal elements. While this provides the surgeon with a good view of the spine and room for performing the procedure, it also leads to increased postoperative pain, a longer recovery period, and increases the risk of complications. Minimally invasive lumbar fusion procedures achieve the same goals in a more patient-friendly surgical approach. Boulder Neurosurgical & Spine Associates surgeons have set a new standard using minimally invasive approaches to treat a variety of common conditions including degenerative disc disease, disc herniations, spinal stenosis, instability and compression fractures.

BNA spine surgeons were the first in the area to offer lumbar fusion performed as minimally invasive surgery. Minimally invasive surgical procedures represent a significant forward leap in the treatment of chronic lumbar pain.

At Boulder Neurosurgical & Spine Associates, most surgeries are performed using a minimally invasive approach. Minimally invasive spine surgery involves several small incisions of 0.5 inch to 1.5 inches to access the patient’s spine. A small tube is passed through muscle tissue followed by cannulas of increasing size (quarter-size diameter) to separate muscles and tissue. Through the cannula, disc and other tissues are removed.

A special spacer made from human bone or PEEK (polyetheretherketone) is inserted with bone morphogenetic protein to promote fusion. A rod and screws are passed through the cannula and implanted to stabilize the spine.

A minimally invasive procedure benefits the patient in many ways; less blood loss, shortened hospital stay, quicker recovery. Comparing similar procedures performed minimally invasively versus the anterior-posterior open approach, benefits include:

  • Average operative time is two hours
  • Average blood loss is three times less
  • Average hospital stay is just two days

Click here to learn more about minimally invasive approach.

Should All Patients Have Surgeries Done Using a Minimally Invasive Approach?

Early clinical experience has demonstrated that minimally invasive fusion techniques offer theoretical patient benefits while still accomplishing conventional goals of the open procedure. Unfortunately, not all patients are perfect candidates for this approach. Only an experienced surgeon after an extensive clinical evaluation and consideration of all unique patient anatomical and pathological factors can answer this question.

We have performed thousands of minimally invasive spine procedures and learned from our experiences. We analyzed our clinical results by directly comparing the safety and efficacy of two different patient groups that underwent open and minimally invasive spinal fusion surgeries. This analysis concluded that both techniques are equally effective, and the minimally invasive approach is accompanied by less blood loss and length of hospitalization without significantly increasing the operative time.