Ask Dr. Santos: Can I Request Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

The prospect of spine surgery is unsettling for any patient. Dr. Santos explains the surgical approaches used to correct back problems, and discusses the considerations that come into play when evaluating a traditional versus a minimally invasive surgical approach.

Request Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

“It is understandable that patients may be scared of undergoing surgery on the spine,” says Summit spine surgeon Dr. Edward Santos. “Patients deserve to understand their options. For me, this is a discussion that starts in the clinic when I meet my patient.” When there is interest in minimally invasive spine surgery, Dr. Santos shares some important information to consider.

A conservative approach

“I consider myself a conservative surgeon,” he continues. “That means that I often find myself talking patients out of surgery more than I talk them into surgery! Most of the spine surgeries I do are elective—this means that it ultimately boils down to the patient’s assessment of the pain. I always explain that in most cases, they don’t have to have surgery and there’s no harm in waiting. However, when everything else fails, surgery is a very powerful option to alleviate pain, improve quality of life, and restore function. 

When to request minimally invasive spine surgery

“When patients do elect a surgical procedure, some of them will ask about minimally invasive techniques,” he says. “These techniques employ smaller incisions, bring about less trauma to the tissues around the spine, cause less bleeding, and generally result in a more rapid recovery. Each case is unique, and may or may not be amenable to minimally invasive options. We do a thorough assessment of the problem and the appropriate recommendation is made. Some cases require a traditional open approach, and this usually is the course of action for cases where several levels are involved.

When traditional methods make the most sense

“If the back problem spans three, four, or five levels, that indicates that there is a complex deformity or significant degeneration,” he says. “It is better to negotiate these more extensive conditions with traditional surgery methods instead of minimally invasive techniques. Of course, we may combine techniques. For one part of the procedure, we might use a traditional surgical approach, and for another component within the same procedure, we might do a minimally invasive approach. These surgical decisions are about how diffuse the pathology is—or how many levels of the spine are affected—and how widespread the pathology is. The more widespread the problem, the more likely it is that we’ll need to do the surgery the conventional way.

“We have a number of exciting techniques available,” he concludes. “I think minimally invasive surgery is here to stay—this is the most dynamic area of spine surgery. But the most exciting aspect is not the fact that these techniques exist, but that we can use them, in a medically appropriate way, to achieve the best outcome for each individual patient.”

Spine treatment

Summit Orthopedics is home to the area’s top spine specialists for minimally invasive spine surgery. If you are experiencing worrisome symptoms, the spine team at Summit Orthopedics will work with you to confirm a diagnosis and develop first an appropriate conservative treatment plan to address your problems. If nonsurgical treatments fail, or have failed, to support your lifestyle goals, fellowship-trained spine surgeons are here to consult with you and discuss appropriate surgical options, such as minimally invasive spine surgery.

Start your journey to a healthy spine: Find your spine expert, request an appointment online, or call us at 651-968-5201 to schedule a spine consultation.

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  • Edward Santos, M.D.

    “I am committed to providing the best care possible for all of my patients with spine disorders. I treat each and every patient as I would treat any member of my family. I believe that patients’ concerns and expectations deserve to be heard. I also believe in the importance of having a thorough discussion of both surgical and nonsurgical options, with the goal of relieving pain and restoring function.”

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