Small cut, short recovery: spine surgery

If you end up in an operating room, chances are the smaller the cut the better the recovery. Dr. Erich Wolf, Neurosurgeon at CHRISTUS St. Patrick's Hospital, opts for minimally invasive procedures whenever possible.

"It's much less painful, much faster because we're not disrupting nearly as much tissue," explained Dr. Wolf.

He added that though neurosurgery includes the brain, spine surgeries are most of his practice. To make a spinal surgery minimally invasive, Dr. Wolf uses a high-powered microscope to see a 3 dimensional image as he works through the small incision. He added surgery is not always the best answer for back pain.

"It is the treatment option of last resort in most cases," said Dr. Wolf.

"People do need spine surgery," continued Dr. Wolf, "being so debilitated that they haven't been able to walk and yet after surgery they have been able to get up and even go back to dancing."

He said lasers are a popular questions from patients, but while they sound high-tech lasers may not work in a lot of cases.

"Lasers are actually more of a gimmick," said Dr. Wolf. He said they are best used for removing spinal tumors rather than spinal fusion or slipped disk surgeries.

He said for most of his minimally invasive procedures the recovery time is about six weeks.

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