What are minimally invasive and robotic spine surgery?

Minimally invasive spine surgery refers to a surgical procedure that involves accessing the spine in a minimally disruptive manner. These techniques allow surgeons to approach the spine with an endoscope through a very small incision. In robotic spine surgery, a robot guides and assists the surgeon while using minimally invasive techniques, allowing for greater accuracy and precision.  In certain cases of degenerative discs, scoliosis, kyphosis, spinal column tumors, infection, fractures and herniated discs, these techniques may reduce incision size, speed recovery, minimize postoperative pain and improve the final outcome. Our team evaluates each patient and their condition to determine the best form of treatment.

When are minimally invasive and robotic spine surgery used?

Surgeons perform minimally invasive and robotic spine surgery to treat a number of conditions. At Cleveland Clinic, a minimally invasive and robotic spine surgery approach may be used for:

  • Spinal fusion, which is often performed on degenerative disks.
  • Corrections for conditions like scoliosis.
  • Repair of herniated discs.
  • Repair and stabilization of vertebral compression fractures.

What are the benefits of minimally invasive and robotic spine surgery?

Minimally invasive and robotic spine surgery offer several advantages over open surgery, including:

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

Why choose Cleveland Clinic?

Each year, Cleveland Clinic’s Center for Spine Health helps thousands of people with back and neck conditions, ranging from the most common to the most complex. Whether your goal is to get back to sports, work, hobbies or just enjoying life, we 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. People 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 and/or robotic spine surgery are the appropriate options for treating their condition. In some situations, minimally invasive or robotic 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 and robotic 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, postoperative pneumonia, blood clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis, or DVT) 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.
  • Surgical equipment, if used, breaking, dislodging or irritating the surrounding tissues.
  • Pain from the surgery itself.

On rare occasions, during a minimally invasive or robotic procedure, the planned surgery can’t be completed and requires either a second trip to the operating room (OR) 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 a surgical microscope with a tubular retractor to guide the surgeon while they’re working. The surgeon makes small incisions (cuts) and inserts the endoscope or tubular retractor into the body. And — with the assistance of a tiny, attached video camera or high-powered microscope — an internal view of the body is projected onto television screens in the operating room. Small surgical instruments are passed through these devices to complete the surgery. For robot-assisted surgeries, the robotic arm can visually guide the surgeon or hold the surgical retractor at the correct trajectory and/or location. After the surgery is complete, the surgeon will close the half-inch incisions with sutures and cover them with surgical tape.

Post-Operative Care

Minimally invasive and robotic procedures can shorten recovery time. Generally, people 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 person to person. Most people having traditional surgery stay in the hospital for three to five days.

Since minimally invasive techniques don’t disrupt muscles and soft tissues, postoperative pain is less intense than pain after traditional open procedures. Though you should still expect to feel some discomfort, advancements in pain management have made it easier for your healthcare provider to manage and relieve your pain.

To help you regain strength and speed your recovery, your provider 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 setup 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.