“Time To Move On”
Great advancements in lumbar spine surgery have allowed better outcomes than ever before in 2020. However following surgery, there is a recovery period involving some soreness and diminished level of activity. Patients shouldn’t expect to get lumbar spine surgery and walk out the same day doing cartwheels.
Recovery after open lumbar spine surgery tends to depend on fitness level and activity prior to surgery. For open lumbar decompression (surgery not using minimally invasive tubular retractors), most studies report about 4-6 weeks for recovery before reaching an expected level of mobility and function. Recovery following open lumbar fusion is reported to be around 4-6 months.
Tubular minimally invasive approaches to both decompress and fuse seem to show equivalent success compared to traditional open surgery, but tubular minimally invasive surgery (MIS) has the advantage of smaller scars, less tissue damage, lower complications and improved pain.
In many cases, the use of minimally invasive (MIS) techniques has improved patient outcomes and lowered hospital costs.
As far back as 2017 it was noticed that the return to work following minimally invasive surgery (MIS) may be half the time as open surgery.
However a new study out of the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York suggests that return to normal activity may not only be far superior to open approaches, but similar between both single-level minimally invasive decompression and fusion. One-level minimally invasive decompression took about 14 days to return to driving while one-level minimally invasive fusion took only 16 days. In return to work, minimally invasive decompression took 16.5 days and minimally invasive fusion took 14 days. For discontinuation of opiate medications, minimally invasive decompression took 7 days and minimally invasive fusion patients took 11.5 days.
This may be the first study to suggest that patients undergoing single-level minimally invasive (MIS) lumbar decompression or fusion can potentially to return to work and drive between 2-3 weeks and stop opiates between 1-2 weeks. Of course this will not apply to every single patient. However tubular minimally invasive surgery (MIS) may not only offer tremendously quicker recover, but that recovery is similar between decompression and fusion.
By no means does this suggest MIS decompression and fusions are interchangeable procedures. The different surgeries are used to treat different spine conditions. But the MIS recovery may be similar for either, possibly owing to the same tubular approach to reach the spine with similar sized incisions.
There’s no reason to have to wait months while recovering from lumbar spine surgery. It’s time to move on, time to get going.