If you live with back pain that is so severe it disrupts your life, you might be a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery. During this operation, the surgeon addresses any issues related to your vertebrae or spinal discs with the use of a tiny video camera and mechanically operated instruments. The surgeon is able to thoroughly resolve the problem all while needing only a small incision of a few centimeters. While some people are good candidates for MISS, many are not. Knowing the difference is critical!

While many people need surgery to address their back pain, they are worried about the risks that come with the procedure and the recovery timeline. A minimally invasive operation can be a safer alternative that allows patients to recover faster and return to their everyday activities.

If you are in need of a spinal operation, look for an experienced surgeon in your area. Dr. Todd H. Lanman, founder of the Advanced Disc Replacement Spinal Restoration Center, is an industry-leading neurosurgeon who specializes in minimally invasive spinal surgery. His office is based in Los Angeles, but patients travel from around the world  to meet with him.

Learn more about the minimally invasive spinal surgery process and whether you might be a good candidate. If you think you are, request a consultation with Dr. Lanman today.


Who Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Is Ideal For

Minimally invasive spine surgery can be used to address almost any spine condition. While some patients might require a more traditional approach, doctors are able to opt for minimally invasive methods more frequently. New technological innovations make these procedures easier for the surgeon and less invasive for the patient – which leads to better results. Here are a few common issues that can be addressed with minimally invasive spine surgery.

Minimally invasive spine surgery reduces the recovery time and infection risk for patients. These operations can also reduce the potential for nerve and muscle damage compared to more traditional operations. Many of these operations also have better long-term results. For example, disc replacement through a minimally invasive operation can give patients back their mobility more than spinal fusion can.

As this operation style is becoming more common, doctors are able to recommend minimally invasive operations to more patients than ever. But still it is not for everyone!


How is Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Performed

The main objective of any operation is to fix the issue while disrupting the body as little as possible. The more a patient is open on the table, the more blood they could lose and the higher risk they have of getting an infection – even in a sterile operating environment. With minimally invasive spine surgery, the incision is small, and fewer nerves and muscle groups are affected.

The operation starts with the insertion of a microscopic video camera into the body, which displays an image of your spine on the screen. This allows your surgeon to see your spine without having to physically access it. The surgeon will use a series of tubes to keep your muscles out of the way and will guide various tools toward your spine. They can remove damaged parts of your spinal discs if needed and replace them with artificial implants if that is the source of your pain.

In some cases, the surgeon might use an endoscope to conduct the operation. This is an image sensor with a light attached that is commonly used in the medical field. Endoscopic minimally invasive spine surgery is very similar to standard minimally invasive spine surgery. The main difference is the imaging used and the recovery time, success rate, and overall experience should not be noticeably different for the patient.


Examples of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Minimally invasive spine surgery is not a one-size-fits-all operation. It is a type of procedure that reflects how your doctor approaches your spinal needs. Before you are approved for surgery, your doctor will go over where the operation will take place and how they intend to address your issues. Here are a few examples of minimally invasive spine surgery in different parts of the body.


The cervical region refers to the vertebrae in your neck and upper back. With this operation, the surgeon actually enters through the front or side of your neck. This allows them to access your vertebrae without going around your nerve canal. With this method, your doctor reduces potential nerve damage and other post-operative side effects. After the operation, you may have difficulty swallowing or talking for a few days while the incision heals.


This operation addresses pain in the middle of your back. Injuries to this area are less common than in the cervical and lumbar regions because these vertebrae are also protected by the rib cage. Your doctor will need to be careful when determining the best incision point for your minimally invasive spine surgery because they need to consider your rib cage, nerve canal, and several delicate organs that make up your core.


The lumbar region refers to your lower back, down to where your spine meets your hips and butt. With a lumbar discectomy minimally invasive spine surgery, the doctor might enter through your abdomen to once again avoid your nerve canal. The surgeon will remove any damaged or bulging discs that are pushing into your nerves and causing pain. They will replace the broken disc with an artificial model that works just as well as the others in your body. This operation protects your mobility while removing a key source of pain.


Who is Not a Candidate for Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Every patient is different, which is why you will need to meet with your doctor to determine whether or not you are a good candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery. However, there are some factors that most doctors list as potential reasons why someone is not a candidate for surgery. Here are a few reasons.

  • Age: older patients typically are not immediate candidates for spinal surgery. Even less invasive operations come with risks and older people might not be able to recover fully from the operation.
  • Health: your doctor wants to know if there are any other health issues that could interfere with the operation and your recovery. If you have other conditions or take certain medications, it might not be safe to operate on you at this time.
  • Weight: doctors often worry about operating on obese patients. There may be complications with the anesthesia, recovery, and long-term success of the operation.
  • Smoking: smoking can affect your blood in multiple ways, including increasing your chances of clotting. Your doctor might ask you to stop smoking in the months before and after surgery – if not for good.
  • Epidural scarring: you might not be a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery if you already have scarring in your spine. However, there may be other surgical alternatives available.

Just because you are not immediately a candidate for surgery doesn’t mean your doctor will give up on you. They might recommend steps you can take to become a candidate (like stopping smoking) or develop alternative treatment plans that can reduce your pain levels and increase your mobility. In a few months, you could be a qualified candidate who can move forward with the operation.


FAQs On the Cost of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

After your doctor determines that you are a candidate for minimally invasive spine surgery, the next step is to determine the cost of the operation. You will need to work with your insurance provider to understand what is covered and if there are any out-of-pocket expenses. Here are a few frequently asked questions about the cost of this procedure.

Does Medicare cover minimally invasive spine surgery?

Medicare covers medically necessary surgery, which means this operation should be covered. However, the surgeon and the facility where the operation is done should both be part of the Medicare network. If the doctor you meet with is not an in-network surgeon, Medicare might not pay for the operation.

Does Aetna cover minimally invasive spine surgery?

Aetna has an extensive list of invasive procedures related to back pain that are covered by its healthcare services. It considers the majority of these operations medically necessary and will cover the cost of the operation. You can look up your specific operation to make sure it is on that list.

Keep in mind that Aetna might still have the same requirements as Medicare where you need to find an in-network surgeon to perform the operation in order to receive coverage.

Does Kaiser cover minimally invasive spine surgery?

Kaiser Permanente offers several health plans with varying levels of coverage. If you work with this company to receive healthcare, talk to your provider to see if your operation is covered. In most cases, your minimally invasive spine surgery should be covered because it is a medically necessary operation. However, there may be network restrictions that limit where you can receive treatment.


Take the First Steps to See if You Qualify for this Surgery

No one should have to live with chronic back pain. If you have difficulty moving, working, and enjoying your favorite activities, meet with a spinal specialist who can diagnose the issue. Along with several non-invasive treatments like medication and physical therapy, your doctor might recommend minimally invasive spine surgery for a long-term solution. They will review whether you are a candidate for this operation and the process to prepare for it.

If you live in or near Los Angeles, contact Dr. Lanman today and take the first steps toward a pain-free life


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