What Is Minimally Invasive Surgery?

Minimally invasive surgery treats foot and ankle conditions and deformities using very small incisions. In these procedures, your foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon uses special instruments to cut bones under X-ray guidance and inserts screws through very small incisions. Advantages of minimally invasive surgery over traditional surgery include faster healing, smaller scars, and less stiffness. The main disadvantage is that it takes additional training and practice for your surgeon to feel comfortable performing these procedures without the traditional open visualization.

Diagnosis

A variety of foot and ankle problems, including big toe arthritis, bunions, and hammertoes, can be treated with minimally invasive surgery. Importantly, not all patients are good candidates for minimally invasive surgery, and not all surgeons perform minimally invasive surgery. If you are interested in the procedure, talk to a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon with experience in minimally invasive surgery to see if you are a good candidate for it.

Recovery

Recovery is often faster from minimally invasive procedures compared to open procedures. Some weightbearing can be allowed immediately after surgery, but this depends on the procedure you are having done.

Risks and Complications

The risks of minimally invasive surgery are similar to traditional, open surgeries, although the risks of infection and wound healing problems may be lower with minimally invasive surgery because the incisions are so small.

While the small incisions used in minimally invasive surgery can make it easier to damage unseen structures like nerves and tendons, research studies have not shown a higher rate of these injuries. With good technique and surgeon experience, these surgeries may even have lower risk compared to open surgeries. More research still needs to be done on these procedures to determine their risks and benefits relative to more traditional surgical methods.

Open Surgery vs Minimally Invasive Surgery

Incisions over a bunion treated with open surgery (left) compared to one treated with minimally invasive surgery (right).

Original article by Elizabeth Cody, MD
Last reviewed by Patrick Maloney, MD, 2020

The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD, including text, images, and graphics, is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatments. If you need medical advice, use the "Find a Surgeon" search to locate a foot and ankle orthopaedic surgeon in your area.