Marc J. Levine, MD
Orthopedic and Spine Institute

Marc J. Levine, MD
1 Hamilton Health Place, Suite 101
Hamilton, NJ 08690
Phone: 609-917-7720


Minimally Invasive Surgery and Its Role in Treating Neck and Back Pain

Minimally Invasive Surgery and Its Role in Treating Neck and Back Pain

Minimally invasive surgery is a conglomerate of surgical methods that help perform procedures and reach the intended result with minimal damage to tissues and muscle structure.

These medical interventions have been used to great effect in neck and back treatment, or more precisely to treat spine problems.

In this recent interview, Dr. Douglas Ashinsky who is board-certified in internal medicine is discussing spinal procedures and the technological developments in the field with Dr. Levine, the Director of the Orthopedic Spine Surgery Program at Robert Wood Johnson, and Dr. McDonnell, a board-certified doctor in orthopedic surgery.

According to official statistics, 80% of patients suffering from back pain don’t need surgical procedures. Back problems are often treated with medication or physical therapy, or the pain simply goes away on its own. But for the remaining 20%, their only chance of relief lies in a surgical procedure, which was, before this new age of technological development, a risky affair with a lot of tissue damage, a long recovery process, and most importantly, uncertain results.

Worse yet, not all patients who require surgery, were qualified to get it, considering the invasive and damaging nature of the procedure, doctors had to assess the patient’s potential to fully recover from it, which often excluded elderly patients from this kind of medical care.

How did orthopedic treatment change over the years?

Dr. Marc Levine has been focusing on spine surgery for 20 years, he lived through every step of development in this field. He sees that certain aspects of the treatment never change. The most important step was, is, and will be listening carefully to the patient, and making an accurate diagnosis of his case.

Yet, he acknowledges the great help doctors now get from advanced medical imaging in this step of the treatment process. Doctors no longer have to rely solely on the patient’s description, now, using CT scans and MRI technology, they can see for themselves in 3D and in colors the patient’s true condition, determine the problem, and choose the right treatment path.

Dr. Matthew McDonnell agreed with that, saying that other than the most obvious cases where neurological problems are spotted, the treatment process for back pain still goes through the same steps:

  • Medication
  • Physical therapy
  • Injection
  • And then some kind of surgical intervention

What has changed, however, is the ability to operate on more and more people. With the reduced risks of minimally invasive surgery, Doctors are no longer worried when operating on patients who are physically frail or have other medical conditions. Now The impact on surrounding tissues is minimal, and the recovery time is significantly shorter

Dr. Douglas Ashinsky also sheds light on the new team approach when it comes to spine problems. Now orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, and physical therapists are working in unison on each case to determine the best approach.

What is minimally invasive surgery?

Dr. Marc Levine describes minimally invasive surgery as a broad term and defines it as the various methods of surgical intervention performed through small incisions resulting in minimal disruption to the tissues and muscle structures. The term minimally invasive surgery includes the use of several technologically advanced methods like operating with special retractors, tubes, and endoscopic procedures

One of the major problems that spine surgery used to have in the past, before the introduction of minimally invasive surgery, is that back pain surgery in itself often causes long-term back pain. Mainly due to the immense muscle disruption. Now, that is no longer the case. Minimally invasive surgery often results in reaching the desired objectives With:

  • minimal blood loss
  • Shorter recovery time
  • Significantly fewer post-surgery infections

Dr. Matthew McDonnell draws attention to the impact that minimally invasive surgery is having on lumbar discectomy and Lumbar spinal fusions. Thanks to endoscopy technology, injections are getting smaller, easier, and less damaging to the surrounding tissue and muscle structure. Which, as a result, makes them more common and available to a broader range of patients. However, the need for large interventions is not eliminated entirely.

What conditions can be treated with spine surgery?

Here, Dr. Marc Levine addresses the common misconception that surgery relieves back pain entirely. Doctors often resort to surgery in the following cases:

  • People suffering from neurological deficits
  • People who fail non-operative treatments and want pain relief
  • People suffering from spine instability and deformities.

In most cases, These conditions are extremely responsive to surgical treatment. But, for back pain, it’s a bit different. Surgery can help eliminate the pain shooting down from the spine to one of the limbs Because what doctors really do is relieve and decompress the nerve. But this doesn’t always relieve the back pain in itself, it just limits its effect on other parts of the body.

Dr. Matthew McDonnell acknowledges that minimally invasive surgery is not the only breakthrough in the field, the development of a multimodular approach helps patients through their treatment journey. This starts with pre-rehabilitation therapy, pre-medication, before-surgery, and anesthetic spinal blocks, postoperative pain medications that avoid heavy sedatives like opioids. All these steps help increase the chances of treatment success as well as speeding the post-surgical recovery process

In the end, Dr. Douglas Ashinsky concludes by emphasizing the importance of having great doctors locally in New Jersey to help local patients and not send them across the country to get adequate care.