What is minimally invasive spine surgery?

Minimally invasive spine surgery refers to a surgical procedure that involves approaching the spine in a minimally disruptive manner. These techniques allow surgeons to access the spine in a similar approach to open and traditional spine surgery using tubular access and/ or an endoscope. In certain cases of degenerative discs, scoliosis, kyphosis, spinal column tumors, infection, fractures and herniated discs, minimally invasive techniques may speed recovery, minimize post-operative pain and improve the final outcome.

When is minimally invasive spine surgery used?

Minimally invasive spine surgery is performed to treat a number of conditions. At Cleveland Clinic a minimally invasive spine surgery approach may be used for:

  • Spinal fusion, which is often performed on degenerative disks
  • Deformity corrections, such for conditions like scoliosis
  • Repair of herniated discs
  • Decompression of spinal tumors
  • Repair and stabilization of vertebral compression fractures

What are the benefits of minimally invasive spine surgery?

Minimally invasive spine surgery offers several advantages over open surgery including:

  • Minimally disrupting the normal tissues (muscles, ligaments, etc.) 
  • A few tiny scars instead of one large scar
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Reduced postoperative pain
  • Shorter recovery time
  • Less blood loss during surgery

Why choose Cleveland Clinic?

Each year, Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Spine Health helps thousands of patients with conditions of the back and neck, ranging from the most common to the most complex. Whether your goal is to get back to sports, work, hobbies or just enjoying life, the specialists at the Center for Spine Health can help.

Our specialists are nationally recognized in orthopaedic surgery, neurosurgery and medical spine and provide patients with the latest, most innovative, most effective medical and surgical treatments available for back and neck problems.

What We Treat

What We Treat

Cleveland Clinic Center for Spine Health surgeons provide an individualized approach to care. Patients selected for minimally invasive spine surgery may experience one of the following conditions:

What to Expect

What to Expect

Pre-Operative Evaluation

Patients in the Center for Spine Health undergo an extensive evaluation to determine if minimally invasive spine surgery is the appropriate option for treating their condition. In some situations, minimally invasive spine surgery may not be as safe or effective as traditional open surgery. If so, the staff will provide education on the relative risks and benefits.

What are the risks of spine surgery?

As with any surgical procedure, including minimally invasive spine surgery, there are general risks and procedure-specific risks. The more common general risks of spine surgery include the risk of adverse reactions to the anesthetic, post-operative pneumonia, blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis) that may travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolus), infection at the site of surgery and blood loss during surgery requiring a transfusion.

The specific risks of spine surgery include:

  • Risk of injury to the nerves or spinal cord resulting in pain or even paralysis
    • The estimated risk of paralysis for major spinal reconstructions is somewhere around 1 in 10,000
  • Instrumentation, if used, breaking, dislodging or irritating the surrounding tissues
  • Pain from the surgery itself

On rare occasions, during a minimally invasive procedure, the planned surgery cannot be completed and requires either a second trip to the operating room or a conversion from the minimally invasive technique to a full open technique.

Day-of Surgery

Most types of minimally invasive surgery rely on a thin telescope-like instrument, called an endoscope, or on a portable x-ray machine, called a fluoroscope, to guide the surgeon while they are working. The endoscope is inserted through small incisions in the body. The endoscope is attached to a tiny video camera – smaller than a dime – which projects an internal view of the patient’s body onto television screens in the operating room. Small surgical instruments are passed through one or more half-inch incisions, which are later closed with sutures and covered with surgical tape. The fluoroscope is positioned around the patient to give the surgeon the best X-ray views from which to see the anatomy of the spine.

Post-Operative Care

Minimally invasive procedures can shorten recovery time. Generally, patients go home on the same day or in one to two days but the exact length of time needed in the hospital will vary from patient to patient. While most patients having traditional surgery stay in the hospital for three to five days.

Since minimally invasive techniques do not disrupt muscles and soft tissues, postoperative pain is less than pain after traditional open procedures. Even though you should still expect to feel some discomfort, advancements in pain control now make it easier for your doctor to manage and relieve your pain.

To help you regain strength and speed your recovery, your doctor may recommend physical therapy. This will depend on the procedure and your general physical condition. Specific exercises will help you become strong enough to return to work and daily activities.

Our Team Appointments & Locations

Appointments & Locations

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment with a Center for Spine Health specialist, please call 216.636.5860 or 866.588.2264.

Virtual Visits

Whether you're a new or existing patient, you can get an initial evaluation or follow-up care from a spine specialist using your phone, tablet or computer. This means there's no travel or parking, less waiting and significant time savings. Call 216.636.5860 to schedule a virtual visit for you or a loved one and get details on cost and set-up instructions.


MyChart connects you to your health care team from the comfort and safety of home. With this secure, online tool you can manage your appointments and complete pre-visit tasks, communicate with your providers, and keep track of your test results and medications.