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What is an Endoscope and How Is It Used in a Spinal Stenosis Procedure?

Spinal Stenosis ProcedureA spinal stenosis procedure can take many forms, but the newest and least invasive type is called an endoscopic procedure. “Endoscopic” means that an endoscope is used during the surgery and “endoscopy” literally means “looking inside” an organ or body cavity, but how can this one tool, an endoscope, actually offer patients a minimally invasive surgical experience for spinal stenosis? First, let’s explore what an endoscope is and how it has revolutionized medical procedures.


What is an Endoscope?

An endoscope is a medical imaging device. An X-ray is also a type of imaging device, but an X-ray is used to take a picture of the inside of the body from outside the body. An endoscope actually goes inside the body as a means of exploring the interior of an organ or other cavity, like the spinal canal. The endoscope is small and thin, which means it can be inserted into a body cavity without requiring a large incision. Via a fiber optics system, the video that the endoscope captures is projected onto a monitor in the operating room so that the surgeon can fully view the area of the body being examined. While an endoscope is commonly used for routine procedures like colonoscopies and upper GI endoscopies, it also offers a minimally invasive way for surgeons to perform spinal stenosis procedures and other surgeries aimed at relieving spinal nerve compression.

Benefits of Endoscopic Procedures for Spinal Stenosis

An endoscope offers the following benefits for a spinal stenosis procedure:


  • Only a small incision is required, so the risks of excessive bleeding, scarring, and infection are reduced.
  • The surgeon does not have to cut soft tissues like muscles to gain access to the affected area of the spine; they can be gently moved aside and the endoscope’s thin, flexible tube is threaded around them.
  • An endoscope allows for extreme magnification of the surgical site, so the surgeon can get a much more accurate, detailed view than he or she would have access to with the naked eye.
  • The chance of risks is greatly reduced with an endoscopic procedure compared to a highly invasive surgery, including less risk of infection, scar tissue, nerve damage, and hemorrhaging.

If you suffer from spinal stenosis and are considering an endoscopic spinal stenosis procedure, you should keep in mind that even a minimally invasive surgery carries risks and should only be chosen as a course of action once all other conservative (non-surgical) treatments have been attempted. Not all patients will be candidates for endoscopic spine surgery for spinal stenosis, so talk with an endoscopic spine surgeon about whether this type of procedure offers you the best possible outcome.

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