In its goals and desired outcomes, minimally invasive spine surgery closely resembles traditional open surgery. It strives to stabilize bone and joint structures or to reduce pressure to the nerves of the spine, though in some cases both approaches may be necessary. However, while open surgery requires a long incision and cutting of the muscles around the spine, minimally invasive surgery uses special techniques to minimize trauma to the area.
Many minimally invasive surgeries make use of a tubular retractor, which dilates the soft tissues and keeps muscles away from the surgical sites. Surgeons use an endoscope or microscope to view the area while special instrumentation allows them to perform procedures within the dilated region. This has proven effective at treating a wide variety of conditions, including spinal instability and herniated discs.