Department of  Neurosurgery
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Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery

Minimally-Invasive Spinal Surgery
Minimally-Invasive Spinal Surgery

Washington University spinal neurosurgeons specialize in the treatment of the entire spectrum of spinal disorders, extending from the skull to the sacrum. From rare to commonplace conditions, our fellowship-trained and board-certified surgeons are uniquely qualified to treat spine diseases. We take a multidisciplinary approach that combines the expertise of neurologists, physiatrists, pain specialists and surgeons to develop treatments tailored specifically for each patient. As educators and scientists, our physicians are actively engaged in clinical and basic science research designed to improve the quality and safety of the care we deliver to our patients. Techniques developed at Washington University are on the leading edge of treatments offered to patients across the nation.

Conditions & Treatments

Minimally Invasive Spine SurgeryMinimally invasive surgery refers to techniques utilizing smaller incisions and minimal tissue disruption. Specialized instrumentation and retractors along with microsurgical techniques allow surgeons to perform spinal stabilization procedures through very small incisions. These techniques allow for more rapid recovery and shorter hospital stays (often less than 24 hours).

In spine surgery, patients benefit from the development of many techniques aimed at minimizing injury to soft tissues (muscles, ligaments and discs) surrounding the spine. Novel procedures have been developed to treat 

  • cervical disc herniation
  • thoracic disc herniation
  • lumbar disc herniation
  • degenerative disc disease
  • spondylolisthesis (slipped vertebra)
  • spinal tumors
  • cervical spinal stenosis
  • lumbar spinal stenosis

Artificial disc replacement also can be performed with minimally invasive techniques and has the benefit of minimizing the potential for injury to the discs above or below the "replaced" disc. 

Not every patient is a candidate for one of these procedures, and the safety and success of an individual procedure depends on matching the correct patient to the correct procedure. In most cases, surgical procedures are just as effective as minimally invasive procedures.

Our surgeons specialize in both minimally invasive and traditional surgical procedures. Members of our Spine Division have been involved in the development of new open and minimally invasive spinal techniques.

Additionally, surgeons Ian Dorward, M.D., and Wilson Ray, M.D., perform the iMAS (interpedicular Minimal Access Surgery) procedure. This is a new procedure that combines traditional open and minimally invasive techniques. This new method minimizes muscle disruption while capitalizing on intraoperative navigation and/or fluoroscopy for maximum precision. iMAS surgery utilizes the smallest incision in the world through which complete spinal decompression and reconstruction can be achieved. For patients who qualify, this technique accomplishes all the goals of surgery with lower blood loss, less narcotic use, and more rapid return to an active lifestyle.




 900 cervical patients are seen per year