Minimally invasive surgery (MIS) uses smaller tools and smaller incisions than the typical open surgery method. Since the incision is smaller, the surgeons are able to better pinpoint the area of your spine that needs treatment, causing less damage to nearby tissue and muscles. This often means less pain and a speedier post-op recovery. Other benefits of MIS include smaller scars, less blood loss during surgery, reduced infection risk and decreased reliance on post-op pain medications.
Tubular retractors and endoscopes are the special tools that make MIS possible. The tubular retractor is a stiff tube that gently dilates, separating muscles and soft tissues from the operative field. The surgeon can then put small tools through this tunnel to the spine. Endoscopes are thin tubes with a light source and camera. The endoscope is inserted through a small stab / incision and positioned. Small instruments are passed through the endoscope to the surgical site where the surgeon performs the procedure. The endoscopic set up enables the surgeon to view the surgery on a monitor.
By contrast, traditional open spine surgery requires a long incision and cutting through muscles, which causes soft tissue damage and means a longer recovery.