Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Myths | MedStar Health

Six Myths About Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (MISS)

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There is a lot of “myth-information” out there about MISS. To understand its full potential for treating spine problems, you need to know what it is — and what it isn’t.

MYTH: All spine surgeries require lots of pain and long recoveries.

REALITY: Not any more. MISS significantly lowers pain and shortens recovery times. Many patients go home the same day as their surgery. And because MISS can improve outcomes, it can also reduce long-term pain and complications.

MYTH: Many spine problems are too complicated for MISS.

REALITY: Very few problems are too complicated for MISS. At MedStar Georgetown University Hospital, we consider MISS a surgical option for the entire spectrum of spine conditions. Our specialists apply it to about 80 percent of their cases — whenever they can get an equal or better result than with open surgery.

MYTH: Lasers are an effective, minimally invasive alternative for spine surgery.

REALITY: No recognized health authority in the United States recommends laser spine surgery. Both minimally invasive and traditional spine surgeries use different techniques that have been proven effective. Lasers have not been proven effective in clinical trials for spine surgery. In some cases, they may help reduce pain by destroying (or ablating) nerve ends. Their surgical application for burning away disc tissue or bone spurs is limited, however, and there is no proof that this is a more effective approach.

MYTH: The best way to assess MISS programs is through their technology.

REALITY: The most critical factor is the surgeons who perform MISS. How much experience do they have? Are they fellowship-trained? Are they skilled in treating all spine problems? How many different types of spine surgeries have they performed? Does a multidisciplinary team support them? How high is their patient satisfaction? The technology is important, but the tools for MISS have been widely available for some time. The key is what our surgeons achieve with them.

MYTH: Many surgeons provide MISS.

REALITY: Many surgeons and hospitals say they provide MISS. The truth is they may indeed use minimally invasive techniques — but only on a limited number of spine conditions. Few have the training or experience to provide the level of MISS options available at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. Nationwide, only between 10 and 20 percent of spine surgeries are performed with minimally invasive techniques. Our fellowship-trained MISS specialists use them on 80 percent of the spine surgeries they perform.

MYTH: MISS is the best approach for all spine surgery.

REALITY: MISS is the best approach for most, but not all, spine surgery. Traditional spine surgery remains the best option for about 20 percent of our cases and will continue to have a critical role to play. Our multidisciplinary team ensures that patients receive the appropriate treatment for their specific conditions.

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