Navigate Up

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery at UPMC

On Topic Video Transcript

Adam S. Kanter, MD

Director, Minimally Invasive Spine Program

Minimally invasive spine surgery enables the surgeon to be able to approach the spine in a minimally destructive fashion. So instead of using typical retractors that require dissection through muscles and tissues and fascia that can injure the nerves or the vessels, we instead use these small dilators, these dilating tubes that one after the other allow us to spread the tissue and dilate them therefore enabling us to get to the spine without damaging those surrounding tissues.

Candidates for Minimally Invasive Surgery

We continue to expand the surgical candidacy for minimally invasive procedures as we continue to evolve the procedure itself.  Traditionally, patients with maybe disc herniations or mild stenosis were treated in a minimalist fashion, but now we’re able to treat conditions such as not only degenerative disc disease but patients with scoliosis, patients with tumors, or patients with severe trauma; we can expand the indications to treat those patients as well.

Patients at UPMC are treated in a multidisciplinary approach, so patients are first seen by their primary physicians and then they are also evaluated by physical therapists, by occupational therapists, by pain and injection specialists, until they get to the point where these things are no longer working, where conservative management is no longer providing any relief or significant enough relief such that they are seeking a more definitive treatment plan. That’s when they come in and they see the surgeon, at which point we have been able to use our experience and knowhow to perform the least invasive procedure to provide them with a maximum benefit and the most functional outcome.

Advantages of Minimally Invasive Surgery

There are a variety of advantages to performing procedures in a minimally invasive manner, and some of those include less blood loss so fewer infections, less need for transfusions after the surgery because of that less blood loss. There is less tissue destruction and therefore there is less recovery of that tissue required after surgery. So, there is a lot less pain medications required, and patients are out of the hospital much faster and therefore able to resume being functional members of society.

Innovation at UPMC

One of the most innovative procedures that we perform here at UPMC is lateral access surgery—what’s routinely called the XLIF procedure. And this is performed coming in through the side of the spine as opposed to coming through the back as traditional operations do. So it really allows us to limit the amount of tissue destruction on the way to getting to the spine.

One of the advantages of coming to UPMC is that you have specialty trained surgeons that are performing these minimally invasive procedures. And not only are we performing these innovative procedures, but we are performing innovative research to try and improve those procedures for the future.

For more information, please call 412-647-3685 or visit the UPMC Department of Neurosurgery

UPMC | Affiliated with the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences | Supplemental content provided by Healthwise, Incorporated. To learn more, visit

For help in finding a doctor or health service that suits your needs, call the UPMC Referral Service at 412-647-UPMC (8762) or 1-800-533-UPMC (8762). Select option 1.

UPMC is an equal opportunity employer. UPMC policy prohibits discrimination or harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, age, sex, genetics, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital status, familial status, disability, veteran status, or any other legally protected group status. Further, UPMC will continue to support and promote equal employment opportunity, human dignity, and racial, ethnic, and cultural diversity. This policy applies to admissions, employment, and access to and treatment in UPMC programs and activities. This commitment is made by UPMC in accordance with federal, state, and/or local laws and regulations.

Medical information made available on is not intended to be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. You should not rely entirely on this information for your health care needs. Ask your own doctor or health care provider any specific medical questions that you have. Further, is not a tool to be used in the case of an emergency. If an emergency arises, you should seek appropriate emergency medical services.

Pittsburgh, PA, USA |