In this current world and technology, the medical field has advanced enough to change how spinal surgery is being performed. Once a dreaded and scary procedure for many patients, spinal surgery has evolved to the point where it can be done as a minimally invasive surgery. In the past, traditional open surgery on the spine means large incisions, long scars, and a long recovery process. However, minimally invasive spinal surgery is getting more popular as it offers small incisions, less scarring, less blood loss, shorter hospital stays, lower risk of infection, and a faster recovery process for the patient. But what about life after minimally invasive spinal surgery?
The goal of surgery is to treat the condition and symptoms that prevents patients from living their life. Although many patients are able to return to their daily routines, the recovery time depends on the type of surgery, underlying condition, determination, and the patient’s physical fitness before surgery. Life after surgery can be explained in three parts:
Immediately after surgery
Patients are brought to the recovery area after the surgery until they regain consciousness. Patients will be observed until they are able to walk and perform basic tasks. In most cases, the majority of patients are able to return home on the same day itself after being given some basic instructions on wound care and a follow up with their doctor.
Patients are given at home instructions as certain procedures require strict postural restrictions. Oral medication for pain relief is also given and patients are advised to rest and limit the amount of activity. The first follow up visit is usually a week or two after the surgery to allow the doctor to monitor the patient’s progress. Patients who have a job that is not physically demanding may be allowed to return to work depending on their progress of this visit.
Patients are also expected to attend physical therapy after surgery as it has been shown to improve recovery rates and help them to return to their activities of daily living. Physical therapy may include stretching exercises, strengthening exercises, and educating the patients on proper posture and precautions to prevent future injury.
For most patients, after the recovery period, many studies have shown that the quality of life improves drastically. Many patients have reported pain relief and improvement in function. This allows them to once again be active and social. One seven-year study showed that out of 304 patients, all were satisfied with the outcome and was able to live a pain-free and active life. The results have been supported by other literature that showed 80-90% of patients obtaining pain relief after surgery.
Minimally invasive spinal surgery also allows active patients to return to sports after recovery. Studies have shown that those who lost weight before surgery, minimize smoking and alcohol consumption, and are physically fit as they can be in their state tend to have the fastest recovery rate. Another study conducted by the North American Spine Society found that between 85 to 100% of athletes were able to return to professional sports after minimally invasive spinal surgery.
- Gordon M. Returning to sports after minimally invasive spinal surgery. Newport Orthopedic Institute. Accessed 8/5/2017. https://www.newportortho.com/About-Us/Our-NOI-Blog/2016/May/Returning-to-Sports-After-Minimally-Invasive-Spi.aspx
- What’s the recovery process following minimally invasive spinal surgery? New Jersey Spinal Medicine and Surgery. Accessed 8/5/2017. http://www.njsms.net/2017/02/recovery-minimally-invasive-spine-surgery/