Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

In most hospitals in the United States, spinal surgery is still done traditionally, requiring long incisions and lengthy recoveries. However, Dr. Yanni trained at UCSF and UCSD, leading centers for minimally invasive spine surgery, and routinely performs minimally invasive spine procedures through a few tiny cuts. Patients suffer much less pain and are back to their normal activities in a few days to weeks, depending on the surgery. With open surgery, recovery can take longer.  For some patients it is even possible for tiny incisions to be hidden in natural skin creases, making them virtually invisible.

Benefits to Consider

In select circumstances, Dr. Yanni can decompress pinched nerves, fuse bones, and correct deformities, all through tiny incisions.

Most of these minimally invasive procedures are performed using a tool called an endoscope, which is a thin tube that has a tiny video camera on the end of it. Dr. Yanni has been at the forefront of developing 3-D endoscopes for brain and spine surgery.  Dr. Yanni inserts the endoscope through a small cut and guides it to the problem area. Muscles are then dilated apart, rather than cut, and the operation is performed with minimal injury to any surrounding tissues. Throughout the operation, the tiny video camera on the end of the endoscope projects large-scale images of the spine onto a video screen, helping Dr. Yanni see the areas of concern.

Minimally invasive spine surgery offers the same post-surgical benefits as traditional spine surgery, but with much less trauma. A smaller incision is not the only advantage. Using an endoscope, Dr. Yanni often does not need to move, or "retract," the major muscles on the back, which is necessary during open spine surgery. So, patients are spared the pain and scarring that can develop after muscle retraction. Patients also require much less anesthesia during minimally invasive procedures. In addition, hospital stays are dramatically shorter. Many patients are able to go home the same day after endoscopic spine surgery. Open spine surgery usually requires four to five days in the hospital.

At the Forefront of Technology

Dr. Yanni can even perform very complex spinal surgeries using minimally invasive techniques. For instance, Dr. Yanni can remove hard-to-reach spinal tumors through tiny incisions. He can also place some types of spinal instrumentation, or screws and rods, to help stabilize and fuse the spine.

How can Dr. Yanni see well enough through tiny incisions to perform such complex procedures?  It's possible thanks to computer-assisted image guidance systems. In some cases, detailed 3-D computer models of a patient's spine are created from CT or MRI data. These sophisticated stereotactic techniques allow Dr. Yanni to "see" the spine through a patient's skin without making a large incision. In other cases, cameras located deep in the body show high-quality pictures of the operative field, allowing Dr. Yanni to perform the operation through a tiny incision, while watching it on the TV monitor. Each of these techniques provide for safe, surgical procedures with much less pain.

Please consult with Dr. Yanni directly to see if you are a candidate for a minimally invasive procedure.


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