Interest in minimally invasive surgery (MIS) of the spine has driven the development of new and innovative techniques to treat an ever wider range of spinal disorders. Despite these new advances, spine surgeons have been slow in adopting MIS into their clinical practice. This study aims to provide a better understanding of the factors that have led to limited incorporation of these procedures into their practices.
Eighty-seven spine surgeons completed a questionnaire related to their perceptions of MIS. Respondents were asked to comment on their perceptions regarding the limitations and advantages of minimally invasive spine surgery. Survey results were then analyzed for both overall opinions and opinions based on the amount of MIS utilization in the respondents’ current practices.
The top 3 identified limitations of MIS of the spine were technical difficulty, lack of convenient training opportunities, and radiation exposure. Of these respondents, spine surgeons experienced in MIS were concerned more with radiation exposure than the lack of training opportunities. In contrast, spine surgeons with little MIS experience cited the lack of training opportunities as the most significant limitation. There was little concern related to the limited proven clinical efficacy of MIS of the spine.
Technical factors, training opportunities, and radiation exposure appear to be the major obstacles to MIS of the spine. Most spine surgeons believe that MIS leads to faster return to daily activities, better long-term function, and decreased hospitalization. This may explain why most surgeons did not cite a lack of proven efficacy as a major limitation to MIS.
These findings indicate that the widespread adoption of MIS of the spine will likely be driven through relatively simple means, such as improved training programs that strive to decrease the technical difficulty and limit radiation exposure of these procedures. It is unlikely that extensive clinical data alone, without such improved training programs, will be sufficient to drive widespread use of minimally invasive spine surgery.