Main types of lower back surgery

There are two main types of lower back surgery used for the treatment of degenerative spine conditions: traditional open spine surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery.

These two approaches can be used to stabilize the spine and relieve pressure placed on the spinal cord or nerve roots by bulging discs, herniated discs, calcified ligaments and other degenerative spine conditions. However, while these two procedures have the same goals, their approach is vastly different. Understanding these differences, can help you make a confident decision about the best treatment option for your needs.

Open spine surgery

Traditional open spine surgery performed on the lower back is a highly invasive procedure that requires a large incision and muscle disruption to access the damaged area of the lumbar (lower back) spine.

Once the spine is accessed, the surgeon will remove part of the damaged disc, joint or vertebra that is pressing against the nerve root and causing your pain. If a significant portion of the spine is removed, bulky hardware such as a metal cage, rods and/or screws may be used to stabilize the spine. This is considered a spinal fusion procedure and comes with a higher risk of failed back surgery syndrome and other complications.

Open lower back surgery and traditional open spine fusion is performed in a hospital and requires several days of hospitalization. This can increase a patient’s risk of infection and also increase the cost associated with spine surgery.

Minimally invasive spine procedures

Minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute offers several proven benefits over traditional open back surgery, including being overall safer and effective.

Unlike the highly invasive nature of traditional open back surgery, the minimally invasive spine surgery at Laser Spine Institute is performed through a small incision, sometimes less than 1-inch in length. Instead of the cutting and detachment of the muscles surrounding the spine, our careful techniques allow the muscles to be pushed aside without disruption. This practice allows our patients to experience a shorter recovery time^ and lower risk of complication compared to traditional open back surgery.

Once the spine is accessed, our surgeons will remove a small portion of the disc, vertebra or joint that is compressing the nerve root without compromising the stability of the spine. This is called a minimally invasive decompression surgery. If the damage to the spine is severe, we may remove the entire damaged disc and replace it with an artificial disc, sometimes using a bone graft to help stabilize the spine. This is called a minimally invasive stabilization surgery. Because we do not insert bulky hardware into the spine, our patients have a lower risk of failed back surgery syndrome compared to traditional open back surgery.

Unlike traditional open spine surgery, minimally invasive lower back surgery is an outpatient procedure and does not require hospitalization, which allows our risk of infection to be much lower than that of traditional spine surgery.

Learn more about minimally invasive procedures

Laser Spine Institute is the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery, and we perform more procedures per year than any other spine surgery center in the world. We offer a variety of minimally invasive procedures to treat nerve compression, and even certain cases of misalignment in the lower spine.

Contact us to learn more or to have our team review your MRI report or CT scan to determine if you may be a candidate for one of our minimally invasive procedures.