Patients Happy with Less Invasive Back Surgery

Lumbar fusion with minimally invasive surgery decreased pain and improved quality of life

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Back surgery might not have to be a major surgery for some patients. A different technique may produce good long-lasting results.

Fusing spinal bones can help some people get relief from back pain and increase mobility. Less invasive surgery that is done with a smaller opening through the back muscles could be a great option, if it works.

Use of minimally invasive spinal fusion was the subject of a recent research study. Patients in that study who underwent the minimally invasive procedure reported significant improvement in pain and quality of life shortly after the surgery and in a long-term follow-up.

"Discuss management of low back pain with your doctor."

Mick J. Perez-Cruet, MD, MS, from the Department of Neurosurgery at the Oakland University William Beaumont School of Medicine in Royal Oak, MI, led this research team.

Between 2003 and 2010, 304 patients underwent minimally invasive spinal fusion as part of the research study. Their average age was 62, and the study included 184 women and 120 men.

Before the surgery and at different times after the surgery, the patients were asked to evaluate their low back pain, disability and their physical and mental quality of life.

The research team compared the patients' pre-surgery responses to responses given after the surgery. The results showed improvement on several measures.

Before surgery, the average low back pain score was 7 on a scale of 1 to 10, indicating significant pain. Two weeks after surgery, the average low back pain score was 4.5 points. This score was maintained for two years, and after 47 months, the average low back pain score was 3.5 points.

Disability scores, in which the higher score indicated severe disability, started at an average of 43.1 points, out of a possible 50, before surgery and decreased to 31.6 points after three months and to 28.7 points six months after surgery.

Long-term improvement in disability was seen at 24 months, with a score of 30.2 points and 28.2 points at 47 months. The scores from three months on indicated moderate disability.

Physical and mental quality of life scores significantly improved after surgery compared to before surgery.

Some complications from the minimally invasive spinal fusion were reported. A few complications were related to the surgery or the surgical hardware used, but most involved urinary retention or infection, wound infection or collapsed lung.

“From a clinical prospective these patients show an extremely high rate of satisfaction in the treatment of their chronic back pain disorders. In fact, the majority of these patients are completely pain free and have returned to work or activities of daily living full time,” the authors remarked.

This study was published in the February issue of Spine.

There was no funding for this project.

Dr. Perez-Cruet disclosed that he is the CEO/President of a company that makes spinal surgery hardware and he holds patents for some of these items. He also reported being a stockholder of, receiving royalties from and consulting for Thompson MIS, a company that makes instruments for minimally invasive spine surgery.

Review Date: 
March 6, 2014
Last Updated:
May 19, 2014