Minimally Invasive Spinal Fusion: Surgery, Recovery, Benefits and Risk

Minimally Invasive Spinal Fusion: Surgery, Recovery, Benefits and Risk

Are you looking to undergo spinal fusion surgery? But, worried about the long hours and recovery? Then you should consider a minimally invasive spinal fusion. The traditional route for spinal fusion involves exposing the entire anatomy during the operation. This can take a whopping 6 hours!  Pretty time-consuming for both the doctor and the patient. But, with a minimally invasive approach, the spine surgeon can achieve the same objective within 2-3 hours.

If you are contemplating a minimally invasive spinal fusion surgery, then you need to know the following things first:

What is a Minimally Invasive Spinal Fusion?

Spinal fusion surgery is used for fusing two or more bones of the spine permanently.
Our backbone or the vertebral column is made up of small bones called vertebrae. The vertebrae are stacked on top of each other and separated by intervertebral discs. This entire structure encloses the spinal cord and protects it. When certain medical conditions cause your vertebra to rub against each other, it can lead to pain and discomfort.

With spinal fusion, this defect can be corrected. A minimally invasive spinal fusion just uses a smaller incision to access the spine and doesn’t cut your spinal muscles.

The spine surgeon removes the intervertebral disc and fills the vacant space with bone graft material. As this graft matures, the vertebrae will fuse. This prevents painful movements and returns stability to your spine. Due to the technically complex nature of this surgery, you should ensure that the hospital has all the modern facilities for allowing this surgery to be performed successfully.

When Do I Need a Minimally Invasive Spinal Fusion?

If you are suffering from extreme back pain then your doctor may recommend a spinal fusion to you. However, this approach is advised only when other treatment methods like physical therapy and medications have failed to show a significant impact.

You might be advised to go for this procedure if you are suffering from any of the following conditions:

  • Degenerative disc disease
  • Scoliosis
  • Spinal stenosis
  • Fracture or break in the spinal cord
  • Infection or tumor in the spinal column
  • Spondylolisthesis

What will happen in a Minimally Invasive Spinal Fusion?

Preparation for the surgery

  • Share the details of your health history and the medications you take. This is essential as some medications may interact with the anesthetics and other medicines given to you.
  • You should also avoid smoking
  • The healthcare team will conduct tests like MRI or X-rays to check your spine. Your doctor may also give you antibiotics before the procedure to protect you from infections.

The Surgery 

The minimally invasive spinal fusion  can be broken down into the following steps:

  • You will be given general anesthesia and your vital signs will be monitored.
  • Your surgeon may use an endoscope or a fluoroscope to help determine the site of incisions.
  • The surgeon will make a small incision(around half an inch)  usually on your back or side.
  • The instruments for surgery will be then inserted through thin, hollow tubes called retractors. These tubular retractors help to hold the muscles away from the site of surgery. Once these retractors are removed, the muscles will return to their previous position.
  • After removing the intervertebral disc between the affected vertebrae, the vacant space will be filled with a bone graft. Other repairments can also be made if needed.
  • Then the incision will be closed surgically.

After the Surgery

You may feel that your symptoms may have vanished or reduced significantly after the surgery. It is possible to experience pain but this can be relieved by taking medicines as advised by your doctor. The healthcare team may also conduct different imaging tests to see if the surgery was successful.

You need to take care of your health by eating right after the surgery. The healthcare team will also teach you how to move properly to keep your spine in alignment.

Benefits of Minimally Invasive over open Spinal Fusion Surgery

  • Less soft tissue and muscle damage
  • Reduced requirement of anesthesia
  • Less pain after the operation
  • Less risk of infection
  • Shorter stay in the hospital for a few days as opposed to a week in the case of open surgery
  • Shorter recovery time of about a few months as compared to a week in an open procedure.

Risks posed by a Minimally Invasive Spinal Fusion

Though it is a minimally invasive procedure,  it is still major surgery and can have certain complications:

  • Possible injury to the spinal cord or nerves
  • Damage to the neighboring tissue
  • Pain because of the surgery
  • Spinal fluid leak

Avail Spinal Fusion Surgery Across the World


Opting for a minimally invasive spinal fusion may offer you faster recovery and lesser pain. But, it is not a suitable choice for everyone. By discussing with your doctor the risks and benefits this procedure can offer, you can make a wise decision for your health. Getting this treatment will help you to align your spine and feel fine!


Last modified on blank at Nov 24, 2022

Reviewed By :- Guneet Bhatia

Urvi Agrawal

Urvi is an avid reader who is passionate about writing. Having worked in hospital settings like AIIMS, She has experience working as a healthcare writer and has written about many healthcare and medical topics. Besides her role as a content specialist, she likes to spend her time cooking, dancing, and painting. She believes that positive thinking is crucial for being happy.

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