Skip to main content
Sign In

Department of Orthopedics

Department of Orthopedics

Common Procedures | Orthopedics | University of Colorado Denver

CU Orthopedics Spine Division

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

For many years, traditional spinal surgery has usually involved large incisions up and down the middle of the back, and spreading apart (or retracting) the back muscles to access the spine. This is commonly referred to as an open technique. The advantage of open techniques is that it provides the surgeon with easy access to the spine. The downside of open spine surgery is that retraction damages the back muscles and can cause significant post-operative pain and extended recovery.

While in many instances open techniques are preferred, more and more conditions are now surgically treated using new minimally invasive techniques. Minimally invasive spine surgery allows the surgeon to make smaller incisions in the skin and avoid large muscle retraction. The surgeon uses a scope inserted through a small incision. A tiny video camera and light are connected to the scope and send images from inside the body to a screen in the operating room. Small tubes are then inserted through other small incisions and surgical instruments are inserted through these tubes and used to perform the procedure.

Advantages of minimally invasive techniques

Minimally invasive spine surgery generally results in the same surgical outcome as with more traditional techniques. However, there are a number of advantages to minimally invasive techniques, including:

  • Reduced operative times.
  • Less soft tissue and muscle damage.
  • Reduced blood loss.
  • Quicker recovery.
  • Shorter hospital stay.
  • Less noticeable and cosmetically more pleasing scarring.

These minimally invasive techniques can be used for almost all of the spinal surgeries described below; however, the techniques must match the patient’s needs and sufficient experience with each technique is required for it to be successful.

Disc Replacement Surgery
Spinal Decompression
Vertebroplasty and Kyphoplasty
Spine Fusion Surgery
Spine Fractures
Spine Infections
Spine Tumors