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What About Laser Spine Surgery?

hA popular and somewhat controversial trend in the medical field is laser spine surgery for neck and back pain. However, this relatively new approach is not considered to be more effective than other methods of spine surgery.

At our center, we use other approaches that are minimally invasive and achieve benefits such as short recovery times, small incisions, and less pain. While our doctors actively integrate the latest state-of-the-art technologies for our patients, we only do so when there is a benefit to our patients.

What is Laser Spine Surgery?

Typically, laser spine surgery is utilized along with other minimally invasive techniques. A laser is used in order to make cuts and provide access for the procedure. However, an incision still needs to be made in order to insert the laser. Many patients mistakenly believe that the laser performs the majority of the surgery, when in actuality, the laser plays a very small part in the procedure and other instruments will still be used.

Further, lasers lack the ability to maneuver when it comes to accessing hard-to-reach areas. The heat that is generated from the laser can also contribute to nearby nerve damage.

hLasers are not necessary for achieving results, and this method is not the most technologically advanced approach available. In fact, a skilled professional can achieve results that are just as precise through other methods, without the heat risk from a laser.

Patients need to be aware that laser spine surgery has not been studied in any controlled clinical trials. For this reason, you should be wary of any professionals who claim to provide better results with a laser approach.

Minimally Invasive Methods

Spinal surgery may be performed in order to:

  • Relieve pain
  • Stabilize the spine
  • Decrease pressure on a nerve
  • Remove a damaged portion of a disc
  • Remove bone spurs
  • Fuse the spine to promote stability

At our office, we utilize effective and proven methods of minimally invasive spine surgery, including endoscopy and micro-discectomy with dilators.

hEndoscopy: In this method, a small endoscope is passed through the tailbone into the epidural space. This provides the doctor with a video image of the inside of the spinal cord. The endoscopy approach confirms the presence of scarring, removes scarring from around trapped nerves, and delivers medication effectively to the targeted area. The involved injections include a contrast for the video imaging, saline to displace the scar tissue, and an anesthetic and medications to reduce pain.

Endoscopy is often used for patients who have not responded to other treatments, or patients who have scarring visible on an x-ray or MRI as a result of a ruptured disc or prior surgery. The procedure takes twenty minutes to an hour, and results can last up to several months with minimal downtime following the procedure.

Micro-Discectomy: A discectomy is performed in order to remove a herniated disc that is causing numbness, weakness, and pain in the back and leg. In typical open surgery, a large incision is used and the surgeon needs to cut through muscles, even stripping muscles away from the spine in order to get a good view of the area.

Micro-discectomy with dilators is a method used to minimize muscle damage. During this procedure, an incision of less than one inch is made and a series of progressively larger dilators are inserted to gradually separate the muscles instead of cutting them. Image guided technology is also utilized, and the dilators are easily removed after the procedure. Dilators can also be used to perform a laminectomy and laminotomy.