When pressure on the spinal cord or nearby nerves has to be eased, there’s always the chance nearby structures may be unintentionally disturbed. Thanks to METRx System Medtronic dilator technology, surgeons now have a better way to safely reach the affected disc or compressed part of the spinal cord. Involving the use of retractors and tubes, the METRx System is meant for use during a less invasive version of common spinal surgeries. Here’s what you need to know about it and how it may benefit you.
Enhancing Minimally Invasive Benefits
The METRx System is meant to enhance many of the minimally invasive techniques already being used to perform many spine surgeries. Created by Medtronic Sofamor Danek, the technology is designed to be used to relieve nerve pressure in the lower back from herniated discs. These are the spongy discs that cushion the spine.
Sometimes inner disc material pushes outward and presses on nerve roots. With traditional surgery, muscles have to be moved away from the location where the problem disc is located to allow the surgeon to remove the protruding part of the disc. The METRx System places less stress on muscles while still allowing surgeons to remove the damaged disc.
How METRx System Medtronic Dilator Technology Works
A special X-ray called a fluoroscope is used to place a needle into the correct area of the spine. A hollow tube (tubular retractor) is then inserted to reach the affected disc. A series of soft-tissue dilators are used to slowly increase the space to the appropriate diameter. The size of the initial incision is about three-fourths of an inch, slightly smaller than the incision length used for other minimally invasive surgery techniques.
The tube used to perform the surgery contains a light, magnifying lens, and video camera to allow the surgeon to have a better view on a monitor in the operating room. The disc material is then removed through the tube. The surgical site is visually inspected via the camera to ensure that all protruding disc material has been removed. The tube is removed and the incision is closed and covered with an adhesive bandage.
Candidates for the METRx System
METRx System Medtronic dilator technology is primarily designed for use on herniated discs in the lower spine. When pressure on nerves needs to be relieved, it’s referred to as decompression surgery. Spinal decompression is one of the two most common types of back surgery performed, with the other one involving stabilization of the spine itself. The METRx System can also be used to remove part of a bony covering of the spinal canal (lamina) to provide more room for nerve roots (laminotomy or laminectomy).
As with other minimally invasive procedures, preferred candidates for procedures that can be performed with Medtronic dilator technology are otherwise healthy except for the issue that needs to be corrected. The METRx System is not meant to treat conditions that will likely require complete removal of the disc and a spinal fusion to restore stability to the spine. Additional factors considered to determine surgical candidates include:
- Location of the damaged disc
- Overall stability of the spine
- Whether or not a patient has underlying conditions that may contribute to surgical complications
Possible Benefits for Spine Surgery Patients
The METRx System isn’t meant to be entirely replace other surgical techniques. It’s a tool that can be used to better perform procedures that are typically used in other forms of minimally invasive surgery. What the METRx System does is offer added protection to sensitive tissues, muscles and nerves while spine surgery is performed. Patients often benefit from:
- Less scar tissue formation
- Better protection of nerve roots
- Not as much post-surgery pain
With nearly a million spine-related surgeries performed in the United States each year, technology that can may the process less risky is always welcome. For many patients living with chronic pain, METRx System Medtronic dilator technology can increase the odds of seeing positive results following surgery. Patients who are suitable candidates for procedures performed this way often enjoy shorter hospital stays and an ability to safely return to work and enjoy favorite activities with little or no discomfort following the procedure.