Back Pain Relief: Advances in Spine Surgery


Millions of people suffer from back pain every year. The burden of back pain on a person’s daily life can be debilitating. Even routine activities such as playing with kids on the floor or taking a bike ride seem out of the question when your back hurts. Fortunately, pain relief is possible thanks to the latest advances in spine surgery.

Improvements in spine surgery

Minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS) refers to innovative surgical techniques. They try to minimize the disruption and damage of tissues surrounding the spine including muscles, ligaments and other tissue.

During MISS, surgeons make small incisions in the back. Through one opening they place a tiny camera attached to a flexible tube that feeds images of the area onto a video monitor. Through other incisions, they are able to perform complex operations using specialized surgical tools.

MISS offers advantages such as:

  • Less injury to surrounding soft tissue
  • Reduced blood loss
  • Reduced pain after surgery
  • Less scarring
  • Improved healing
  • Faster recovery

Image-guided surgery improves accuracy

In addition to MISS, spine surgeons may now rely on intraoperative imaging such as three-dimensional (3D) computed tomography (CT). This imaging gives a precise roadmap of the person’s anatomy during the surgery. When used with computer-assisted navigation tools, intraoperative imaging helps surgeons accurately:

  • Remove entire tumors or bony growths
  • Relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerves
  • Minimize bone or soft tissue loss
  • Place any necessary spine-stabilizing implants

Image guidance improves outcomes

Traditionally, complex spine surgery required a large incision because the surgeon needed room to work. Surgeons relied on two-dimensional X-ray imaging and the person’s anatomy as their roadmap. But that method puts the patient, surgeon and operating room team at increased risk for radiation exposure.

The already challenging procedure became more difficult if the person had unusual anatomy, other medical conditions or scar tissue from a previous spine surgery. With image guidance, surgeons can safely perform spine operations by planning for these factors.

If you’re living with chronic back pain, talk with your doctor about options for relief. Learn more about the UCLA Spine Center or call 310-319-3475 for an appointment with a spine surgeon.