Overview
Minimally invasive surgery is the name given to surgical procedures that cause less tissue damage, bleeding, and complications than traditional incision on surgical procedures. Minimally invasive surgery is also often called endoscopic surgery or "keyhole" surgery, which utilizes special instruments that create smaller incisions than traditional surgeries. Minimally invasive surgery has been used in surgical rooms throughout the world since the late 1980s. However, consumers should know that even minimally invasive surgery can be painful, and is considered a major type of surgery.

In most cases, minimally invasive surgery utilizes a piece of equipment called an endoscope.  This equipment is a long, thin and flexible tube that has a light and camera attached to one end.  This tube is inserted into a body cavity or area through a small incision usually about 1/2 inch in length. The camera sends an image to a screen, much like a computer or television screen, that the surgeon can see throughout the course of the operation.

The size and number of incisions that may be necessary depends on the type of procedure being performed. Minimally invasive surgery has been performed in nearly all medical fields, including cardiac, urology, neurology, and spine care.

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgical Procedures
Today, spine care specialists and surgeons can perform a variety of minimally invasive spine surgery procedures on all areas of the spine, including the cervical, thoracic, lumber, and sacral areas. Some of the most common procedures include but are not limited to:

  • Laparoscopic spinal fusion
  • Cervical Radiculopathy
  • Thoracoscopy
  • Transforaminal lumbar interbody fusion
  • Percutaneous discectomy

Minimally invasive spine surgical procedures also offer treatments for microsurgical treatment of herniated discs, lumber spinal stenosis, spinal fusion, scoliosis, compression fractures, osteoporosis, and in the treatment of spinal tumors, vertebral fractures and more.

Computer Assisted Technology
Minimally invasive spine surgical procedures offer the same goals as traditional surgical approaches. However, the use of computer assisted image guidance technology and special x-ray machines called a fluoroscope enables surgeons to locate as well as navigate various areas of the spine through the use of images that enables greater accuracy and the use of instruments designed to be used through small incisions. Such surgical procedures combine traditional surgical skills, expertise and experience with computer assisted image guided surgery that enables surgeons to perform more precise movements within the surgical area, reduce the risk of nerve damage and results in less destruction of muscle, bone and tissue than traditional surgical procedures.

Who Benefits from Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?
Individuals suffering or diagnosed with spinal conditions and injuries such as compressed vertebrae, scoliosis, arthritis, or work or sports related injuries may benefit from minimally invasive spine surgery. Shorter hospital stays, often a matter of days rather than a week or more, reduced postoperative pain, less tissue damage and scarring than traditional surgical approaches as well as shorter overall recovery time, often a few months instead of the year or more, are just a few of the benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery.

How Much Does Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Cost?
The cost of any type of endoscopic, laparoscopic, or minimally invasive spine surgery depends on the condition as well as severity of the condition being treated.  In the United States, removal or repair of herniated discs may cost between $6,000 and $8,000, while vertebral fusion treatments may range anywhere between $15,000 and $17,000. In the United States, spinal procedures may cost up to $80,000. Disk repair surgeries cost approximately $10,000 each, but does not include doctors fees or facility fees.

The same procedures performed in India or South Korea saves medical travelers thousands of dollars. Disk surgeries in India, including fusion procedures range approximately $8,500, while laminectomy surgical procedures may average $4,500. Spine care in South American destinations such as Costa Rica may cost between 1/4 to 1/2 the cost of similar procedures performed in the United States.

Who Performs Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?
Any type of spinal procedure or treatment should be overseen by an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in spinal care and spinal surgeries. Orthopedic surgeons should be certified and experienced in all types of spinal surgeries, including cervical, thoracic and lumbar procedures and techniques, and belong to recognized organizations and associations. Consumers should always verify the experience and training of surgeons, facilities and support staff to ensure proper training and expertise, certification, and accreditation for any suggested procedures or techniques.