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Minimally Invasive Spinal Surgery

The spinal column supports our trunks and makes all of our movements possible. All of the elements of the spinal column and vertebrae protect the spinal cord, which provides communication to the brain, mobility and sensation to the body.

That's why injury to the spine can be so painful and disabling. A herniated or ruptured disc is one of the most common spinal disorders. For some patients, medication, physical therapy or exercise may provide relief from pain and aid in recovery. If they don't, your doctor may recommend a surgical procedure. Annually, about 250,000 Americans have surgery to relieve herniated discs.

Surgeons use minimally invasive surgery techniques to remove gall bladders, fix knees and repair hernias. Now their uses have been extended to spinal surgery.

Microendoscopic Discectomy

A discectomy removes a disc herniation (bulging disc) to relieve pressure on an adjacent nerve. It's the number one procedure performed on the spine in the United States each year. The traditional open method requires a large (up to four inches) incision down the middle of the back, with extensive stripping of muscle from the spine to reach the affected disc. Microsurgery discectomies use one-inch skin incisions, but still involve cutting muscle. In a new procedure offered at Baptist Health Lexington, surgeons use the METRxä Microendoscopic Discectomy System, which provides access to the spine (with less tissue trauma than associated with traditional surgeries) to relieve pressure on nerves. With the system, surgeons use specially designed metal tubes, called dilators, that progressively increase in diameter. The dilators are inserted from smaller to larger through the muscle to gradually separate, or split, and open the muscle to create an opening large enough for surgical tools to be used. Retractor tubes maintain the opening while the surgeon uses specially designed endoscopes and surgical tools to reach and remove spinal elements, such as disc fragments or bone spurs, that are causing pain.

With the METRx Microendoscopic Discectomy System, surgeons are able to locate, see and remove herniated discs in the spine through tunnels created by tubes that split back muscle, much like a sewing needle splits the weave of fabric, along natural divisions. No muscle fiber is cut - only separated.

Relief of symptoms is comparable to open procedures, and the method offers patients several advantages in terms of postoperative pain, recovery period, rehabilitation and cosmetic results. Patients in one study stayed in the hospital an average of 12.1 hours, with a range of two hours to 48 hours. That compares favorably to the two to four days needed for open procedures.

Click here for answers to frequently asked questions about the Microendoscopic Discectomy System.

For additional information about back surgeries, go to