Minimally-invasive Spinal Fusion

Contact Information

Contact the Spine Medicine Clinic at Research Park at (608) 265-3207 or (800) 323-8942.

UW Health spine medicine specialists developed a minimally-invasive way to perform spinal fusion surgery in 1993. The procedure was performed for the first time in the world in September, 1993. Since then, UW Health has become a world leader in the field of minimally invasive spine surgery.
What is minimally invasive spinal fusion?
Patients with degenerative spinal disease may require spinal fusion surgery to stabilize the vertebrae and alleviate severe, chronic back pain. Traditionally, spinal fusion has been open surgery, which promised a low complication rate and pain relief for 90 percent of all patients. Many patients, however, still experienced back pain and fatigue because of muscle loss from the operation.
  • Requires only a small incision in the back
  • Reduced hospital stay (under two days compared to four to six days)
  • Recuperation time (three to eight weeks compared to three to six months) 
New Developments in Spinal Fusion

Clinical research efforts continue to improve the healing time and outcomes associated with spinal fusion surgery. As part of a 1997 FDA-sponsored pilot study, UW Health performed the first combination bone graft substitute/cage fusion procedure.
During this procedure, a metal cage is inserted between the vertebrae that needs to be fused. Implanted inside the cage is a laboratory-made bone substitute known as a bone morphogenetic protein (BMP). This protein is the same substance that the body uses to regenerate bone after a fracture, and it is what causes the vertebrae to fuse together.
Bone substitutes eliminate the need to harvest bone grafts from the patient, reduce postoperative pain and speed the recovery time. Patients are typically discharged within 24 hours of surgery, and are completely healed within three months instead of six months.