For many, the idea of undergoing spine surgery to correct chronic conditions such as herniated discs, sciatica and spinal stenosis was a scary proposition. Many have heard anecdotal stories from friends or family about people they knew undergoing spinal surgery with less than optimal results. Furthermore, the perceived recovery time made spinal surgery unfeasible for many who are still working and active.

While open spine surgery had its drawbacks, recent advancements in medicine and technology are allowing what were once complicated and invasive procedures to be carried out in what is known as a “Minimally Invasive” fashion. This Minimally Invasive approach is safe, effective and holds many benefits over traditional spine surgery. Dr. Patrick Senatus is a Board Certified Neurosurgeon in New York City with an expertise in Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery. Below, Dr. Senatus shares 4 of the major benefits of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery.

1. Smaller Incision
Historically, the only way surgeons were able to access damaged spinal discs or vertebrae was through a 6-8 inch incision along the spine and then cutting or dissecting the surrounding muscle and tissue.

Now, these same procedures can be carried out using an incision of only an inch or less. Instead of opening a large section of the back or neck to access the spine, the incision is only made in the area of the damaged disc or vertebrae. As a result, there is significantly less trauma to the surrounding muscle structures and large amounts of muscle dissection is no longer necessary.

2. Novel Technology
The most important improvement that allows for these smaller incisions has come in the way of surgical technology. As mentioned above, the traditional 6-8 inch incision was also used so that surgeons could visualize the spine and its structures in an attempt to identify the offending spinal disc or vertebrae.

However, a recent advancement, known as fluoroscopic guidance, allows surgeons to see the spine during procedures using real time X-ray imaging. This fluoroscopic guidance system, along with real-time nerve monitoring, allows surgeons to slip tiny instruments between muscle fibers and access only the area of the spine that needs to be treated.

Technology has also reduced the duration of procedures as surgeons can now identify areas of injury before surgery begins using tests like MRI and Discograms. In many cases, traditional spine surgery required “exploring” the spine to pinpoint the exact area of injury, which required longer operative times and more time under anesthesia.

3. Reduced Scarring
Just because you underwent a surgical procedure does not mean you should have to bare the ugly scars to prove it. Many patients often avoided spine surgery because they did not want to have unsightly scars showing when wearing a bathing suit, backless dress or clothes that did not cover the back. While a scar may have sounded like a fair trade for relief from chronic pain, you no longer have to choose between pain and confidence.

In fact, many who undergo Minimally Invasive Spine Procedures leave the operating room with just a small bandage covering the incision. The smaller incision means a much smaller mark on the skin and therefore less scarring. In fact, many patients have told us that their friends and family can’t even tell they ever had surgery.

4. Expedited Recovery
Another significant deterrent from spinal surgery, especially for younger patients, was the notion of having to spend multiple nights in a hospital followed by several weeks of bed rest. In open spinal surgery this was often the case, as the body needed an extended period of time to recover from the cutting or burning of muscle and tissue to access the spine.

But, as a result of smaller incisions and muscle sparing approaches, the body only needs to recover from the small incision above the spinal disc or vertebrae and the repair of the surrounding spinal structures is no longer needed. In fact, many patients return home the same day as their procedure and are back to work a few days later.

Dr. Patrick Senatus is a Board Certified Neurosurgeon in New York City with extensive experience in Minimally Invasive and Restorative Spine Surgery. Dr. Senatus attended Harvard College where he was recognized as a Harvard College and John Harvard Scholar and graduated Magna Cum Laude with a Bachelor of Art in Biochemical Sciences. As a medical scientist training program scholar he completed his Doctorate of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and his Doctorate of Philosophy in Neurobiology at the Harvard Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

In 2006, Dr. Senatus completed Neurosurgery Residency at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center where he was nominated for the Arnold P. Gold and Physician of the Year Award, recognizing him for excellence in teaching and patient care. Subsequently, he completed a fellowship at the Cleveland Clinic in Functional and Restorative Neurosurgery of the Spine and Brain.