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Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery at UPMC

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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


Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery
Dr. Adam Kanter describes the advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery.

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