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Spinal surgery simplified

Spinal surgery simplified

By Christopher Coyne

For decades, for those who suffered from particular back ailments, the most common option for treatment was traditional lumbar spine surgery. The procedure, although effective, and still necessary in some cases, can also be disruptive to sensitive muscles, tendons and even bones in the spine itself. With this traditional type of back surgery, in order to gain access to the affected areas on a patient's lumbar region, surgeons needed to extensively dissect muscle from the vertebrae, affecting tendons and resulting in damage or scarring of those muscles. In some instances with this type of procedure, ligaments, nerves and portions of the spine itself could be adversely affected. A major procedure like back surgery also meant a patient typically would have to remain in the hospital for four or five days, and full recovery could take months.

Now, patients with certain back and spine issues have an option: minimally invasive spine surgery. Healthy Life spoke to Dr. Andrew M. Wensel, a neurosurgeon with Southern Tier Neuromedicine, a University of Rochester program and division of Rochester Neurosurgery Partners, in Big Flats about the differences between minimally invasive spine surgery and the traditional approach; and why it can be so beneficial for certain patients.

Dr. Wensel, a spine surgery specialist, said that the minimally invasive form of spine surgery can be performed on patients with lumbar stenosis, disc herniation and disc degeneration among other conditions. One of many advantages of this type of procedure over open spine surgery is the size of the incision. For minimally invasive procedures the incision is about an inch long, whereas in open spine surgery the incision can be as long as eight inches.

Using advanced tools such as tubular channels and a high powered microscope, surgeons can address the patient's spinal issue with less damage to muscle, bone and ligaments. Dr. Wensel said that the majority of patients of this type of procedure can go home the same day. A patient can be up and walking around on the day of the procedure and within three weeks can return to light duty work.

Maybe you know someone who has avoided back surgery because of fear of the pain associated with a serious medical procedure, or the prospect of a long recovery period. With the technology available to surgeons today, a lot of that fear factor is removed.

With a minimally invasive procedure--because the process is less traumatic to the body-there is a less time spent in the O.R, far less blood loss, less scarring, quicker recovery times and best of all, less pain. An added benefit with this type of procedure is some patients who were poor candidates for open spine surgery may be ideal candidates for the minimally invasive procedure.

Dr. Wensel says being able to offer this minimally invasive option to his patients is very gratifying because he can not only ensure a successful surgery, but it can be done with minimal discomfort to the patient. It's a safe procedure and patients feel better sooner.

Andrew M. Wensel, M.D.
URMC-Southern Tier Neuromedicine
Big Flats, NY