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Arthroscopic (endoscopic) minimally invasive surgery is a newer take on minimally invasive lower back surgery. For years orthopedic surgeons have been using arthroscopic techniques on knees and shoulders. Also, for years they have been doing minimally invasive procedures through small tubes in the lower spine and neck. It was inevitable that the two techniques would eventually merge.
Arthroscopic surgery is done through several small incisions. Through one incision, a camera is placed. Through other small incisions, instruments (grinders, cutters, suction, probes, etc.) are used to remodel the joint in question.
In recent years these arthroscopic techniques have been applied to the spine. The spine consists of many very complicated joints. Access to them is difficult, whether open, micro, minimally invasive, or arthroscopic techniques are used. The hope is that when arthroscopic (endoscopic) techniques are used, there will be less collateral damage to muscles, joints, ligaments, tendons, and nerves, and therefore shorter recovery times.
With micro and minimally invasive techniques visualization of the surgical fields can be difficult, increasing time under anesthesia for the patient. With the newer arthroscopic techniques, that may change. Shorter, more accurate, less invasive surgeries will benefit the patient and speed his recovery.
Keep this technique in mind if you face the prospect of surgery. Understand that it is relatively new; not many surgeons are trained in it or have a lot of experience with it, yet. Also remember, there are very few indications for surgery. See my posts from July 12, 2012 on back surgery and August 6, 2012 on minimally invasive surgery to understand the pros, cons and reasons for having surgery in the first place.