Doctor taking down notes from a patient explaining her neck pain

Navigating The Risks Of Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Minimally invasive spine surgery, with its associated risks, has gained significant popularity as a preferred alternative to conventional open spine surgery.


This advanced technique boasts numerous advantages, including smaller incisions, minimized muscle and tissue damage, and a faster recovery period.


Nevertheless, it is essential to comprehend the risks linked to this surgical approach. In this all-inclusive guide, we will delve into the risks of minimally invasive spine surgery and offer valuable insights on mitigating these risks to ensure a successful procedure.

Advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery.

Before diving into the risks, it’s essential to understand why patients and surgeons alike are opting for minimally invasive spine surgery.

This advanced approach offers several key advantages:

  • Smaller incisions: Traditional open spine surgery requires a large incision, whereas minimally invasive procedures involve one or more small incisions, typically around ½ inch each. These smaller incisions result in reduced scarring and a better cosmetic outcome.

  • Less muscle and tissue damage: The use of specialized instruments, such as tubular retractors, allows surgeons to create a small workspace within the patient’s body without causing significant damage to surrounding muscles and tissues. This results in less postoperative pain and faster healing.

  • Reduced pain and recovery time: Minimally invasive spine surgery typically involves less pain, shorter hospital stays, and quicker recovery times compared to open surgery. Patients can often return to their daily activities and work sooner.

Risks of minimally invasive spine surgery.

Despite its many advantages, minimally invasive spine surgery is not without risks. It’s important to be aware of these potential complications and discuss them with your surgeon.

General Surgery Risks

Like all surgeries, minimally invasive spine surgery carries some general risks, such as:


  • Anesthesia complications: An adverse reaction to anesthesia can occur, which may cause breathing difficulties, allergic reactions, or other complications.

  • Infection: Infections at the surgical site are possible, although the risk is generally lower with minimally invasive procedures due to the smaller incisions.

  • Blood clots: There is a risk of developing blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) that may travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism).

Procedure-specific Risks

In addition to general surgery risks, there are some risks specific to minimally invasive spine surgery:

  • Nerve or spinal cord injury: While rare, damage to nerves or the spinal cord can occur during surgery, resulting in pain, weakness, or even paralysis.

  • Dural tear and spinal fluid leak: A tear in the dura mater, the protective membrane surrounding the spinal cord, may lead to a spinal fluid leak. This can cause headaches and may require additional treatment or surgery.

  • Incomplete surgery or conversion to open surgery: In some cases, minimally invasive surgery may not be completed as planned, necessitating a second surgery or a switch to an open surgical technique.
four surgeons in a dark surgery room

Factors affecting risks in MISS.

Several factors can influence the risks associated with minimally invasive spine surgery:

  • Patient’s health and medical history: A patient’s overall health, age, and medical history can impact the risk of complications. For example, smokers, obese individuals, or those with a history of blood clotting disorders may have a higher risk of complications.

  • Surgeon’s experience and expertise: The skill and experience of the surgeon performing the procedure can significantly impact the risk of complications. Surgeons who specialize in minimally invasive spine surgery and have extensive experience are more likely to achieve successful outcomes with fewer complications.

  • Type of surgery and complexity: The specific procedure being performed and its complexity can also affect the risks associated with minimally invasive spine surgery. Some surgeries, such as spinal fusion or deformity correction, may carry a higher risk of complications due to their more complex nature.
A couple speaking with a doctor

Minimizing the risks of minimally invasive spine surgery.

Although it is not possible to completely eradicate all risks associated with minimally invasive spine surgery, certain measures can be taken by patients and surgeons to mitigate these risks:

For Patients:

  • Select a highly qualified and experienced surgeon: Investigate your surgeon’s background, expertise, and success rates in performing minimally invasive spine surgery. Surgeons who possess specialized training and a substantial number of successful surgeries are more likely to achieve a successful outcome with fewer complications.
  • Lead a healthy lifestyle: Embrace a healthy lifestyle that includes regular exercise, a well-balanced diet, and cessation of smoking, which can enhance your overall health and decrease the risk of complications during and after surgery. 

  • Inform yourself: Acquire knowledge about your specific spinal issue and the suggested treatment options. Gain an understanding of the potential risks and benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery and share any concerns with your surgeon. 

  • Adhere to pre- and post-operative guidelines: Following your surgeon’s instructions before and after surgery can help lower the risk of complications. This might entail discontinuing certain medications, administering antibiotics, or engaging in physical therapy.

For Surgeons:

  • Remain current with the latest techniques: Surgeons must stay informed on the most recent developments and methods in minimally invasive spine surgery to deliver the best possible outcomes for their patients.
  • Employ cutting-edge technology: The utilization of state-of-the-art technology, including endoscopes, fluoroscopy, and robotic-assisted surgery, can enhance surgical precision and reduce the risk of complications.
  • Adopt a multidisciplinary approach: Cooperation with other healthcare professionals, such as physical therapists, pain management specialists, and neurologists, can guarantee a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses all facets of a patient’s spinal issue.

In conclusion

Minimally invasive spine surgery has revolutionized the treatment of many spinal conditions, offering numerous benefits over traditional open surgery. However, it is essential to be aware of the minimally invasive spine surgery risks and take steps to minimize these risks.

By choosing an experienced surgeon, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, and following all pre- and post-operative instructions, patients can improve their chances of a successful outcome and a smooth recovery.

If you are considering minimally invasive spine surgery, it’s crucial to have a thorough discussion with your surgeon about the potential risks and benefits specific to your condition. Together, you can make an informed decision on the best course of treatment for your unique situation.