What to Expect After Minimally Invasive Back Surgery

Modern rehabilitation physiotherapy worker with senior client; blog: What to Expect After Minimally Invasive Back SurgeryIf you have a back condition that requires surgery, you may be worried about what happens after the procedure. Traditionally, back surgeries are done as open procedures, meaning that the entire area being operated on is opened with a long incision so the surgeon can view and access the spine. 

However, advances in orthopedic surgery have made it possible for doctors to effectively operate using smaller incisions. This kind of procedure is called minimally invasive spine surgery, often abbreviated as MISS. The benefits of the minimally invasive procedure include less time in the hospital, shorter recovery time, and less pain.

Three of the most common minimally invasive back surgeries include:

  1. Microdiscectomy: This surgery treats patients who have pinched nerves in the spinal columns. Pinched nerves in the spinal column can cause pain in the back and legs. The procedure is done by removing a small portion of the bone over the nerve root to relieve root compression.
  2. Laminectomy: This is another surgery that relieves pressure on the nerve roots in the spine. Laminectomies are typically performed to relieve compression caused by spinal stenosis. A section of bone is removed from the vertebrae to relieve pressure.
  3. Minimally Invasive Lumbar Fusion: Spinal fusion is performed to permanently fuse two or more bones in the spine. Conditions that may benefit from spinal fusion include:
    • Spinal stenosis
    • Scoliosis
    • Degenerative disc disease
    • Spondylolisthesis 

If you are a candidate for one of these procedures, you may want to know what to expect after minimally invasive back surgery. While every patient is different, most will experience shorter recovery times and be able to return to their normal routines with improved mobility and less pain sooner than patients that undergo open procedures.

Recovery Following Surgery

Because minimally invasive back surgery only requires a small incision, recovery time after the procedure is much shorter than with traditional open spine surgery. The muscles and soft tissues surrounding the spin are left intact, meaning they don’t have to heal after the surgery. This means you will recover more quickly. 

According to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), most patients go home on the same day or in 1 to 2 days after MISS. When you are home, you will need to rest but you can resume your normal diet as soon as you feel like you can.

After the surgery, you may have mild pain and soreness as you start to move around. However, this pain will improve in a relatively short amount of time. Your doctor can prescribe you a pain killer or recommend an over-the-counter pain reliever. Unlike with other open procedures, heavy pain killers are not usually needed after minimally invasive spinal surgery.

You must take care of the surgical wound after returning home. Some fluid leaking from the incision is normal, but if you see large amounts of fluid, or develop signs of infection like a fever or worsening pain.

Getting Back to Your Routine

How quickly you can return to your normal routine depends on your condition and the procedure you have done. You will probably need to miss work for the first couple of weeks following surgery, or at least reduce your workload. The full recovery time following MISS can vary, but averages around 6 weeks. It should be noted that this recovery period is significantly shorter than that of an open procedure. Your surgeon will give you a more specific timeline as you recover.

Physical Therapy

To help you recover properly, your doctor will likely prescribe physical therapy. A physical therapist will teach you to do exercises that will strengthen the muscles around the spine to aid in recovery. Exercises your physical therapist may have you do include stretches and other exercises to build strength, stamina, and mobility.

Learn More About Minimally Invasive Back Surgery

Dr. Nael Shanti of Cary Orthopaedics Spine Center is a board-certified orthopedic surgeon specializing in minimally invasive spinal surgery including microdiscectomy, laminectomy, and lumbar fusion. If you think you might be a candidate for one of these procedures or have questions about what to expect after minimally invasive back surgery, call (919) 297-0000 to make an appointment with Dr. Shanti.