In more invasive lumbar interbody surgeries, the surgeon makes large incisions in the abdomen, cutting through muscle and tissue into the peritoneal cavity. This practice leads to longer convalescence and tends to pose greater risks for the patient. In minimally invasive lumbar surgeries, the surgeon makes a much smaller incision and pushes muscles, the peritoneal cavity, and major blood vessels aside using surgical retractors. Since less tissue is cut or otherwise damaged, patients generally experience a shorter recovery.
A lumbar interbody fusion is the fusing of two or more vertebrae of the spine using a bone graft and the body’s natural regenerative process to connect vertebrae with bone. The procedure is typically performed on patients experiencing pain caused by degenerative intervertebral discs--discs of cartilage between vertebrae which act as joints and shock absorbers. The surgeon partially removes the offending disc(s) and inserts a bone graft and a cage implant to support the graft. Depending on the patient, this implant may provide enough support while the graft grows to fuse the surrounding vertebrates; if not, the surgeon may need to add extra spinal support, utilizing rods and screws.