Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Leading-Edge Back Pain Treatment With Faster Recovery Times

As people who suffer from chronic back pain know, the discomfort caused by an accident or other condition can seriously impact day-to-day activities. The limitations on your mobility and lifestyle can, in turn, be a burden on your overall wellbeing.

In the past, some people have simply accepted chronic back pain as a way of life, because they did not want to undergo traditional open spine surgery for fear of pain or long recovery times. But due to modern advances in medicine, many injuries and disorders of the back can now be corrected by minimally invasive spine surgery. Through this technologically advanced back pain treatment, a spine surgeon with expertise in neurosurgery or orthopedic surgery can access the bones of the spine through small incisions, causing less pain after surgery while promoting faster recovery.


Back and Spine Center

At RWJBarnabas Health, we are pleased to offer the advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery to our patients. As the largest health system in New Jersey, our board-certified neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons administer this leading-edge surgical back pain treatment to chronic back pain sufferers from all walks of life.

Now, patients who suffer from traumatic auto or sports injuries, neurological disorders, or developing orthopedic conditions can benefit from this modern back pain treatment including access to robotic surgery methods that provide faster healing times and fewer complications than traditional open spine surgery. With locations throughout New Jersey, our highly qualified neurosurgery and orthopedic surgery medical teams provide the highest level of care from consultation to spine surgery to after-care, to restore your quality of life in the best way possible.

What Is the Difference Between Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery and Traditional Spine Surgery?

Minimally invasive spine surgery is surgical back pain treatment that allows your neurosurgeon or orthopedic surgeon access to the damaged portion of the spine using the smallest incisions possible while minimizing any damage to the surrounding muscles and other tissues.

By contrast, traditional open spine surgery tends to use longer incisions that may be necessary for certain cases requiring greater access to parts of the spine.

What Conditions Can Be Treated With Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

There are a number of orthopedic and neurological conditions that cause or contribute to chronic back pain. While many of them can be treated with nonsurgical back pain treatments, others may require spine surgery to provide relief from symptoms. Fortunately, many of them no longer have to be corrected through traditional open surgery and can instead be successfully treated with minimally invasive spine surgery by a skilled spine surgeon. Some of them include:

  • Degenerative disc disease. This disease is associated with the thinning of the spinal discs over time, which often leads to chronic back pain.
  • Herniated discs. When a spinal disc is squeezed out of alignment, it can bulge into the spinal canal, causing this painful condition that often requires back pain treatment.
  • Sciatica. This disorder involves nerve compression that causes pain to radiate down the leg.
  • Scoliosis. This orthopedic condition involves an unnatural curvature of the spine which can be present at birth or develop over time.
  • Spinal stenosis. This occurs when your spinal canal narrows and pressure is placed on the nerves in your spine your spine causing extremity and back pain.
  • Spinal tumors. The spine can develop an abnormal growth of tissue. Whether noncancerous (benign) or cancerous (malignant), it can put pressure on the spinal column, resulting in pain.
  • Spondylolisthesis. When a vertebra in the spine slips out of alignment, nonsurgical back pain treatment or spine surgery may be required.
  • Vertebral compression fracture (VCF).This is a type of fracture that occurs in the spine. It can be caused by trauma or a degenerative condition such as osteoporosis.

How Is Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Performed?

During minimally invasive spine surgery, a spine surgeon will access the problem area of the back through small incisions, using special tubes or retractors. These instruments are precisely placed often using X-ray guidance and create a tunnel where the spine surgeon will pass small tools and instruments as they perform the spine surgery.

A compact camera called an endoscope may be used, which projects an internal view of the body onto a monitor in the operating room. This allows the spine surgeon and their surgical team to have a complete view of the surgical area, to ensure the utmost accuracy. Once this minimally invasive spine surgery is done, the incisions are closed with sutures and covered with surgical tape.

Minimally invasive spine surgery techniques help enhance accuracy and precision as the surgeon conducts spine surgery. They results in reduced blood loss, a lower risk of infection, less pain and faster recoveries for patients than traditional open spine surgery.

RWJBarnabas Health pioneered the use of unilateral biportal endoscopy (UBE) for lumbar spine, which is a kind of endoscopic spine surgery, in New Jersey. UBE offers new possibilities to help relieve degenerative conditions such as spinal stenosis, herniated discs and spondylolisthesis, a condition in which a vertebra moves out of place.

Robotic Surgery

Robotic surgery is beginning to be used in spinal surgery for traditional complex open spine procedures as well as in minimally invasive surgeries. Skilled surgeons trained in robotic surgery use the robotic arm to help guide the placement of spinal implants. At RWJBarnabas Health, our surgeons are highly trained to use this leading-edge technology.

What Procedures Can Be Performed with Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

Some of the techniques that can be performed by minimally invasive spine surgery include:

The Benefits of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Minimally invasive procedures generally cause less pain and blood loss, and shorter hospital stays than traditional spine surgery. There are many other advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery over open surgery, including reduced trauma to the adjacent tissues and less anesthesia needed for the spine surgery. Many patients also prefer minimally invasive spine surgery, because the resulting scars are tiny and less noticeable.

Risks of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Even though minimally invasive procedures may allow quicker return to activity than traditional forms of spine surgery, any surgical procedure has associated risks. While a patient’s condition may qualify for minimally invasive spine surgery, there is a chance that the spine surgeon will need to convert to an open spine surgery technique mid-way through the surgery if a minimally invasive technique is found to be inadequate for optimal results.

Risks of minimally invasive spine surgery are largely the same as open procedures. They include:

  • Adverse reaction to anesthesia
  • Post-operative pneumonia
  • Deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in the legs) that may travel to the lungs and become a pulmonary embolism
  • Infection
  • Blood loss
  • Spinal cord or nerve injury
  • Paralysis (estimated risk of paralysis from spine surgery is less than 1 in 10,000 operations)

Be sure to discuss any questions and concerns with your physician before scheduling spine surgery.

Recovery from Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Most patients who undergo minimally invasive spine surgery return to work and daily activities such as light chores and errands in a short time following their procedure. Full recovery times depend on your spinal diagnosis, the complexity of your spine surgery, your age, overall health and other factors. Ask your spine surgeon about what you can expect in terms of your own recovery time.

Common recommendations for the days or weeks that follow spine surgery include:

  • Avoid heavy lifting and strenuous exercise
  • Alternate heat and ice therapy
  • Wear supportive footwear
  • Engage in light activity such as walking
  • Do physical therapy to promote strength, posture and enhanced recovery

Call your spine surgeon right away if you experience excessive pain, drainage from incision sites, headaches or a fever exceeding 100.4 degrees after your spine surgery. Call 911 or go to the emergency room if you experience breathing difficulties or chest pain.

Am I a Good Candidate for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

To determine your candidacy for minimally invasive spine surgery, your medical team will evaluate you. Our board-certified neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons at RWJBarnabas Health are leaders in the field of minimally invasive neurosurgery with experience in the latest robotic surgery and traditional open spine surgery techniques.

To learn if you are a candidate, schedule a consultation with a member of our team.


For further information about minimally invasive spine surgery, contact us at 833-656-3876.