Traditional vs. Minimally Invasive Surgery

May 9, 2019

Surgery is a destructive act.

You might not think of it that way, because it is often a necessary first step on the way to full healing. In the long run, surgery can yield incredibly positive, restorative results. Overall, it’s a good thing because of how it ultimately allows you to regain your lifestyle.

The act itself, though? It’s deeply traumatic for the body. Cutting through skin and muscle. Realigning bones. It may be necessary, but that doesn’t mean those first few weeks aren’t a real (though temporary) step backward—swelling, pain, inability to put weight on your feet, scarring, etc.

And of course, the more invasive and traumatic the surgery is, the longer it will take the body to recover.

That’s why minimally-invasive surgery, also known as minimal incision surgery, is such a game changer for our patients.

Basically, the idea is this: How do we do the least amount of damage possible to the body, while still doing everything we need to surgically repair or realign the original problem? The better we can answer this question, the better results our patients will have.

But that’s the big picture. What about the specifics? Let’s take a look at some concrete ways that minimally-invasive surgery differs from traditional surgery, and what that means for your healing process.

Size of the Incision

The most obvious distinction between the two approaches is the size of the incision itself.

With a traditional open surgery, incisions need to be quite large in order to give the surgeon a clear view of the surgical area, as well as provide enough space for the surgical tools to operate. Thanks to specialized tools (more on that in a minute), minimally-invasive surgery can make use of much smaller openings in the skin.

The difference can be quite substantial. For example, a traditional open bunion surgery typically requires an incision of at least 2 inches, and sometimes as many as 6 inches, depending on the approach.

By contrast, a minimally-invasive procedure may only require between one eighth and one half of an inch! Closing the incision sometimes requires only a single stitch.

A smaller incision has profound benefits for the patient, including:

  • Less pain after the procedure
  • Less visible scarring
  • Much lower risk of infection or other complications
  • Faster recovery


How are minimally invasive surgeries performed through such small openings? Specialized tools.

Most procedures make use of a small camera at the end of a long, flexible fiberoptic cable. This tool is called an endoscope (or arthroscope, if the camera is going to be looking into a space within a joint). There are also specialized surgical tools that only require a small incision to operate.

The end result is that the surgeon doesn’t need as much “space” to move the surgical tools, and also doesn’t have to be able to see the surgical site directly. So incisions can be a lot smaller.

There’s another thing to consider here—

post-surgical hardware.

With a traditional open reconstructive surgery, you’re very likely to need wires, screws, plates, or other solid internal fixation devices designed to hold surgically repaired bones together during the healing process.

However, less trauma to the foot means that these kinds of devices just aren’t necessary with a minimally-invasive procedure.

Time and Convenience

The duration of a surgical appointment depends on a lot of factors, so it’s impossible to make a blanket statement here.

But in general, minimally-invasive surgeries require much less of your time, both on the day of surgery and afterward. The biggest difference is that you don’t have to check in at a hospital—you can have the surgery at our office, which saves a ton of time at the front and back end.

We can also often use a local anesthetic rather than general anesthesia (if that’s what you’d prefer), which also saves time on the day of surgery.

And because you can heal faster from a smaller incision, the amount of post-surgical downtime and requirements for rehabilitation tend to be less significant.

In the best-case scenario, you might be able to leave our office just 45 minutes after the procedure begins, and return to normal shoes, working and other normal activities much faster than you would have with an open surgery.


This is maybe the most shocking difference of all.

See, not only is minimally-invasive surgery faster, more convenient, and provides superior medical results for our patients, it also turns out to be a lot cheaper, too.

Why is that?

Well, once again the biggest difference is that you don’t have to walk through a hospital door. That alone can save you thousands, since you don’t have to make an inpatient stay. As a result, most of Dr. Foster’s surgical patients end up paying $500 or less total out of pocket.

But even beyond that, because minimally-invasive surgery is less likely to cause complications, you’re less likely to need follow-up care or readmittance later.

And because you’ll probably be able to return to work and other activities faster, there’s less potential for lost productivity—this is especially important if you work for yourself or have to take unpaid time off for recovery.

So overall, a minimally-invasive procedure could end up saving you a lot of money, both up front and in terms of the “hidden costs” afterward.

Get the Minimally-Invasive Advantage

Dr. Joel Foster in Lee’s Summit, MO is dedicated to staying at the cutting edge of podiatric care, in order to get the best possible results for his patients in the least invasive way possible.

If it’s possible to treat your foot condition without surgery at all—perhaps using regenerative injection therapies—we will.

And if you do need surgery, we’ve specialized in using minimally invasive techniques whenever possible. In fact, we’re the only Atlas-certified HyProCure treatment center in the state—HyProCure being a specialized minimally-invasive procedure for certain flatfoot conditions.

If your foot pain just isn’t going away, and you need a doctor who can offer you the best, make sure you give our office a call today at (816) 246-4222. You can also request an appointment online.