Endoscopic Spine Surgery: Procedure, Recovery Time, Risks, Benefits and Treatment

Endoscopic spine surgery (ESS) is for those diagnosed with a spinal condition that causes pain, numbness, and other neurological problems. This blog is an extensive guide on what is endoscopic spine surgery, the procedure, recovery time, and more. Get reading!


What is Endoscopic Spine Surgery?

Endoscopic spine surgery is an advanced, minimally invasive, procedure that uses micro-sized incisions (less than 1 inch usually), small tubular systems, and an endoscope to see what’s happening in the surgical area/field. An endoscope is a small camera that is inserted in the surgical area (the spine, in this case) through the incision. This camera (endoscope) allows the surgeon to see what’s going on in the spine. 


Patients with a herniated disc may undergo this type of endoscopic spine surgery. The procedure involves removing the painfully herniated material. 

Considerable technological and procedural breakthroughs have taken place since the 1970s when microdiscectomy was initially used to treat a herniated disc.

A simple microdiscectomy process aims at: 

  • Cutting off the extra disc tissue that causes the spinal nerves to tingle
  • Reducing inflammation
  • Attending to the patient’s symptoms


When is Endoscopic Spine Surgery Suggested? 

If you are a patient with spinal stenosis, a herniated disc, and spondylolisthesis – and non-surgical therapy is ineffective for at least 3 months in relieving the symptoms – a minimally invasive procedure can be advised. Mainly elderly patients need this surgery.


Pre-procedure Preparation for Endoscopic Spine Surgery

There is no specific preparation required for endoscopic spine surgery, however, to speed up your recovery, your surgeon could suggest quitting smoking and getting regular exercise before the treatment. Your surgeon might also ask you to stop consuming any herbal remedies or non-essential drugs that raise the risk of surgery.

How is Endoscopic Spine Surgery Performed? I Endoscopic Spine Surgery Procedure 

An endoscope is used during endoscopic spine surgery, a form of minimally invasive surgery. An endoscope is a 7 mm tube with a light source and a high-resolution camera lens attached.

An 8mm incision is made during endoscopic spine surgery, and the muscles are carefully separated to create a narrow passageway for the endoscope to reach the spine. The surgeon can see the anatomy and pathology by projecting the images from the endoscopic camera onto a monitor. 

After the images are projected, any troublesome bone spurs, herniated discs, or thicker ligaments are removed with devices put via the channel. The surgeon uses sutures to close the wound after finishing the procedure and removing the equipment. 


How is Endoscopic Spine Surgery Different From Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery?

While endoscopic spine surgery is a minimally invasive process, it has 2 key differences from minimally invasive spine surgery.  

Endoscopic Spine Surgery – 

  • Requires a smaller incision: The incision or the cut made is very small.
  • Shorter recovery time: It does not take long to recover as the incision/area of surgery is very small.

Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery – 

  • Requires a large incision: The incision or the cut made is larger.
  • Long recovery time: It takes long to recover as the incision/area of surgery is larger.

Post-Procedure Protocol for Endoscopic Spine Surgery

As part of the recovery process, for the first week after surgery, it is advisable to avoid any bending, twisting, or lifting more than 5 pounds. You can return to work within 1-4 weeks of your surgery.  It can help to do easy exercises 2 weeks after the surgery like walking, although, you will have to refrain from sitting or standing for more than 30 minutes at a stretch. 


Benefits of Endoscopic Spine Surgery 

Some benefits of the Endoscopic spine surgery are: 

  • Quick Recovery 

Patients recover quickly from endoscopic spine surgery. It has little to no tissue stress in contrast to other conventional procedures that do. As a result, your stay in the hospital is reduced, and you can resume your normal activities sooner.

  • Minimally Invasive

The surgery requires less tissue damage resulting from the very small incision used to execute the surgery. The patient experiences reduced discomfort and scarring as a result.

  • Reduced Risk of Infection 

Because of how tiny the incision is, there is less chance of infection. Furthermore, the body does not need to receive any implants or foreign objects to be placed in the body. 

Other benefits include: 

  1. Less blood loss
  2. Less damage to the surrounding tissues
  3. Less post-operative pain
  4. Decreased hospital stay
  5. Quick return to normal activities

What Conditions Does Endoscopic Spine Surgery Treat?

Herniated Disk 

While sometimes it can just be a pain in the arms or legs caused by a herniated disk, it can progress to more complex disorders including myelopathy, sciatica, or radiculopathy. “Discogenic” pain is defined as pain that has its source in a damaged disc.

Endoscopic spinal surgery is an endoscopic discectomy, a minimally invasive surgical treatment also used to remove herniated disc material causing pain in the neck and arms (cervical), mid back (thoracic), or lower back and legs (lumbar).

Click here to read more about how Endoscopic Spine Surgery may help with Herniated Disk pain 

Degenerative Disk Disease

Degenerative disk disease refers to the various structural, physiological, nutritional, and molecular alterations that take place in the spinal disc over time or after the initial damage to the intervertebral spinal disc in your spine. 


Sciatica, radiculopathy, and discogenic pain, or back and neck discomfort, are frequently brought on by degenerative disc degeneration. Degenerative disc disease-related back pain is caused by adjacent irritated (inflamed or squeezed) nerve fibers and is classified as mechanical instability.  

Endoscopic surgery is a procedure with a shortened recovery period, lower postoperative discomfort, quicker return to work and regular activities, and lower complication profile as compared to more conventional methods like microdiscectomy (open surgery with an operational microscope).

Potential Risks of Endoscopic Spine Surgery 

The only endoscopic spine surgery risk is the minor side effects of the surgery. However, they go away on their own in a few days or weeks. Some of the common side effects are: 

  1. Pain
  2. Swelling
  3. Discomfort
  4. Bruising at the site of the incision
  5. Temporary weakness
  6. Tingling or numb sensation in your arms or legs

Click here to read more on Endoscopic spine surgery – top 7 questions answered 

Endoscopic Spine Surgery Cost in the UK 

There are different kinds of spine surgeries available in the UK. The endoscopic spine surgery cost can range from  £5595 to £11,725, depending on the procedure required for your treatment. 

Is Endoscopic Spine Surgery Right For You?

An ideal option for you if you have a disk herniation is ESS. For those with degenerative age-related spinal disorders, endoscopic spinal surgery can provide great outcomes with few complications and, naturally, a faster recovery.

[Disclaimer: It is advisable to consult your healthcare professional before making any decisions about getting surgery]


1. How safe is endoscopic spine surgery?

Although endoscopic spine surgery is usually safe, there are always dangers associated with any surgery. These dangers include nerve injury, hemorrhage, and infection.

2. How successful is endoscopic spine surgery? I What is the success rate of endoscopic spine surgery?

Endoscopic spine surgery has 90% or higher success rates.

3. Who is a candidate for endoscopic spine surgery? I Am I a candidate for endoscopic spinal surgery?

An ideal option for you if you have a disk herniation is ESS. For those with degenerative age-related spinal disorders, endoscopic spinal surgery can provide great outcomes with few complications and, naturally, a faster recovery. But spinal surgery isn't always the first course of action. It is advisable to consult a healthcare professional to understand your medical needs.

4. What are the disadvantages of endoscopic spine surgery?

The most frequent side effects from endoscopic spinal surgery, regardless of the technique used, are periop erative hematoma and dural rupture. temporary dysesthesia, damage to the nerve roots, and recurrence

5. What is the recovery time after endoscopic spinal surgery?

It can take about 4-6 weeks to recover from an endoscopic spinal surgery.

6. Will I require physical therapy after endoscopic spinal surgery?

Yes, you will require physical therapy after the endoscopic spinal surgery. Physical therapy is a crucial part of the recovery process. It is a contributing factor in helping you heal faster, improve mobility, and relieve pain. A physical therapist can design a routine based on your needs and goals to avoid any further complications.


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