Anterior vs. Posterior Approaches in Spine Surgery

Category: Procedures, Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: September 10, 2014

spine columnAll minimally invasive spine surgeries require a small incision through which the surgeon can access the affected areas of the spinal column. This incision can either be made in the back itself (posterior) or in the stomach area (anterior). Both points of entry are legitimate but the exact method used depends on the area of the surgery, the surgeon, and the procedure being performed. This article will talk about the pros and cons of each method, and when each can be effectively used in a minimally invasive surgical procedure.

Back vs. Stomach Approach

The first thing that a surgeon will take into account when determining the point of incision is the location of the impacted spinal disc, nerve or vertebra. If the affected area is in the cervical spine (neck), the surgeon will almost always approach from the back in order to avoid possible complications with the throat. This holds for the upper back as well (going in through the chest would be difficult and not worth the risk). When you get past the rib cage and into the low back area, an abdomen incision becomes a possibility.

But if approaching the spine through the back is a possibility, why even consider approaching through the abdomen? Isn’t there a lot more possibility for error going through the abdomen and intestines? Depending on the specific location of the impacted vertebra, it may be easier to reach by going through the stomach. Additionally, the minimally invasive approach to spine surgery ensures that there is little (if any) damage to the intestines, and that recovery is quick and easy.

Some patients with severe instability or deformities can even require a procedure that involves both anterior and posterior approaches. This provides even greater stability to the affected vertebrae.

Talk to your surgeon about which approach will be used in your procedure.

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