While patient concerns remain a significant driver in the development of minimally invasive techniques, technological advances in surgical instrumentation have transformed the theoretical to the practical. Advanced fluoroscopy, or x-ray imaging during surgery, has markedly improved the accuracy of incisions made and hardware placed. A variety of endoscopes, camera-tipped wands, can be inserted through small incisions and provide the surgeon with excellent visualization of the operative site. New surgical instruments were developed to work in tandem with endoscopes. The past several years have brought numerous innovations to spine surgery. These innovations include the development of imaging systems that interpret anatomical data for three-dimensional display; the use of lasers, ultrasonic frequencies, and high-pressure water jets remove tissue; and new monitoring devices that help the surgeon to optimally position instrumentation as well as to warn of potentially damaging neural contact during a procedure. Spine operations that lend themselves particularly well to minimally invasive approaches are intervertebral disc decompressions and discectomies. Progress has been made in adapting certain kinds of spinal fusion procedures to a minimally invasive approach, and certain forms of scoliosis of the thoracic spine have been treated with minimally invasive surgery.
Source: MedMarket Diligence, LLC; Report #M510, "Spine Surgery: Products, Technologies, Markets & Opportunities, Worldwide, 2008-2017."
MIS has many enthusiastic supporters. However, caution needs to be exercised, as even though a technique is less traumatic, if the rate of successful spinal fusion is much lower, then there is really not an advantage. Also, it has yet to be demonstrated that minimally invasive spine fusion systems actually cause better outcomes than some other surgical techniques used in the traditional open approach.
Increasingly, minimally invasive techniques are becoming the preferred method for autologous bone graft procedures. Traditional procedures involve the surgeon making a 3- to 5-inch incision to harvest bone from the patient’s hip area, and some studies have shown that complications arise in nearly a third (31%) of these patients. These studies also show that about 27% of patients still feel pain in the hip area up to two years after the surgery.