Spine surgery today is less invasive than it was back at the start of the 21st century. This is certainly welcome news if spine surgery is something you are currently considering or discussing with your doctor. As for what’s on the horizon with spine-related procedures, there’s plenty of room for “best guesses” based on current technology, affordability, accessibility, patient preferences, and other factors. That said, there are some innovations already here or on the horizon that offers a fairly reliable indication about what the future of spine surgery may hold.
More Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery Possibilities
Minimally invasive spine surgery is here already, but it has its limitations. As this technology continues to improve, however, even more procedures, including ones still more likely to be done traditionally right now, will be done with fewer disruptions. Technology being fine-tuned to allow this to happen involves
- Robotic devices that allow for more precision in hard-to-reach areas
- Newer techniques that access affected areas in less disruptive ways – e.g., side of the body access instead of from the back
- Better surgical tools
Improved Imaging Procedures
Digital X-rays that provide better clarity are an example of how imaging procedures are steadily improving. This is good news for spine surgery patients since improved clarity with internal images boosts the accuracy of the initial diagnosis, which ultimately improves the odds of achieving the desired results with surgery. It’s reasonably safe to assume image procedures will continue to improve even more in the near future.
Increased Accessibility to Remote Care Options
In part because of COVID concerns, digital or remote healthcare options have become increasingly common and accessible. This is a trend likely to continue into the future. For spine surgery patients, this means easier access to pre-surgery consultations and appointments. While spine surgery obviously can’t be done remotely, patients can benefit from easier access to spine specialists as surgery possibilities are explored.
The journal Surgical Neurology International reports significant progress is being made with techniques that preserve motion more effectively when spine surgery is performed. One example cited is disc arthroplasty or artificial disc replacement. By using artificial discs to replace damaged ones, spinal stability is preserved and full spinal motion is maintained for many patients.
Efforts are already underway to develop biologically active agents that may be able to restore spinal function. An active agent is known as rhBMP-2, for example, has already been approved for use in the United States. It stimulates the production of bone tissue to enhance results from spinal fusion surgery. The future promises even more innovations of this nature. There are also studies being done involving other biological solutions that could benefit spine injury patients.
Regardless of what the future may hold for spine surgery, it’s important to see your doctor or a spine specialist sooner rather than later if you’re experiencing spine-related issues. Receiving an accurate diagnosis and treatment recommendations specific to your situation as early as possible improves the odds of enjoying welcome relief.