Laser Spine Surgery
How long has Laser Spine Surgery been around?
Spine surgery can be
performed using several different tools, including a laser. Laser spine
surgery has been around since the 1980s, but it has never been studied in a
controlled clinical trial to determine its effectiveness. A number of
surgeons haven't made the transition to using lasers for spine surgery
because there are no clear benefits to laser surgery over more
well-established spine surgery techniques that have proven to be effective.
The purpose of spine surgery typically is to relieve pain and other
symptoms by decreasing pressure on a compressed spinal nerve or by
stabilizing the spine. Surgery may involve removing a
herniated or damaged
portion of a disk in the spine (discectomy);
removing the back part of the bone that covers the spinal canal (laminectomy);
removing bone spurs or other spinal growths; or connecting two or more of
the vertebral bones in the spine (spinal
If you are
interested in laser spine surgery or a treatment for your spine condition,
contact us to determine what option is
best for you, what your insurance will cover and any additional surgery
How is Laser Spine Surgery performed?
Traditionally, a small, high-speed air drill or a surgical instrument
that's heated with an electric current (electrocautery) is used to cut away
the tissue and bone. During laser spine surgery, a focused beam of light
(laser) is used to cut away tissue. Laser spine surgery is often promoted as
being noninvasive and risk-free. However, these procedures require incisions
and can result in serious complications.
Before deciding on the type of spine surgery to have, first, you should
thoroughly investigate the need for surgery.
Chronic neck and back pain has many possible causes. I'd strongly
recommend that you do not proceed with any type of treatment until you see a
specialist such as a neurologist to evaluate your symptoms and diagnose
what's causing them.
In some cases, a precise diagnosis can be difficult to determine. If you
have pain that's confined to your spine — it doesn't radiate to your hands,
arms, feet or legs — and
magnetic resonance imaging or another imaging test doesn't reveal a
specific diagnosis, you may want to consult a specialist in a pain clinic.
Diagnosing Spinal Pain Conditions
Pain specialists can use diagnostic injections to pinpoint the problem
area. One difficulty in diagnosing spine problems is that the spine has many
moving parts that are potential pain generators — for example, disks, facet
joints, nerve roots, the spinal cord and muscles. By systematically
injecting these structures one by one with anesthetic agents, the anatomic
source of the pain often can usually be determined.
Even when you know what is
causing neck and back pain, surgery shouldn't be the first line of
treatment, unless you're having severe pain or muscle weakness that results
in difficulty walking or performing daily activities. Medications and
physical medicine that combines exercise, lifestyle changes and treatment
modalities such as acupuncture or therapeutic massage can often effectively
If your symptoms persist, a reasonable next step would be injection
therapy. Your doctor may inject medication such as
cortisone into the space around the spinal cord (epidural space) to
decrease inflammation around the nerve roots. Or your doctor may inject
numbing medication into or near the structures that are causing back pain.
Often both substances are injected simultaneously.
If more conservative treatments fail to reduce back pain, then surgery
may be necessary, depending on your diagnosis. For example, if you have a
herniated disk with leg or arm pain as a major symptom that hasn't been
relieved with other treatments,
discectomy may be appropriate. If your doctor recommends surgery, don't
move forward until you have a clear understanding of your diagnosis and how
the surgery will help relieve your symptoms.
According to some experts, laser spine surgery is an appealing alternative
because it is performed under a local anesthetic along with IV sedation.
This means that patients are awake but comfortable while the doctor performs
the procedure. Because the main tool of surgery is a laser, there are also
no large incisions or lengthy hospitalizations. Each procedure only lasts,
on average, an hour, and recovery time is almost immediate. Many patients
walk home within a few hours. Unlike conventional back surgeries, which can
to operate through a patient's front and risk injury to important organs,
surgery is less intrusive and can involve less risk.
Benefits of Laser Spinal Surgery
of Laser Spine Surgery
Because laser spine surgery is a relatively new procedure, having been
developed in the late 1990s, it comes with risks. Some patients have
reported damage to their bowels from failed surgeries or no results at all.
Another drawback to the procedure is that it is expensive and not covered by
most insurance plans.
Traditional spine surgery has been tested in numerous clinical trials and
proven to be effective. Studies have shown that discectomy reduces pain and
other symptoms in approximately 85 percent of people who have a herniated
disk. In elderly patients who have radiating pain due to
effectively reduces symptoms in about 80 percent of patients. Very few
surgeons regard laser spine surgery as a viable alternative to conventional
spine surgery techniques.