The field of orthopedic spine surgery has made impressive advancements in recent years with Minimally Invasive Spine Surgery (MISS) techniques. However, we are frequently asked about one topic in particular — laser spine surgery. Patients in pain want to get better, and they want the most effective option to achieve that goal. With such a fascination on lasers, let’s take a closer look at this technology.
Lasers are a tool, not a type of surgery
Simply put, lasers are an intense, concentrated beam of energy. Surgeons use this technology for specific functions such as: cutting tissue, coagulation (stopping bleeding), and ablation (vaporizing tissue so it shrinks in size). It’s best to think of lasers as one tool in the surgeon’s toolbox, not a specific type of spine surgery.
Safety and effectiveness of laser spine surgery
Although lasers have stirred up interest, there is limited high-quality, scientific papers that show the benefit of using this technology to assist with spine surgery. In fact, a recent review was published this year in the Journal of the American Association of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS). The authors concluded that no clinical or preclinical data suggest a benefit for using lasers in spine surgery. What’s more, it’s believed there are some specific disadvantages of using lasers. In the case of laser disk ablation (LDA), the authors cited safety concerns regarding the excess heat generated from the lasers which can cause injury to surrounding tissue, including damage to the spinal nerves.
Minimally invasive spine surgery, without lasers
Minimally invasive spine surgical techniques have advanced rapidly in recent years. However, did you know that more than 95% of minimally invasive spine procedures in the U.S. are done without lasers? Using small incisions, surgeons can complete complex procedures safely and effectively. The benefits of MISS compared to traditional spine surgery includes several advantages:
- decreased blood loss during surgery
- less pain and use of pain-killers
- decreased soft tissue damage
- shorter number of days recovering in the hospital
This all translates to a relatively safe approach with a faster recovery so patients can return to their normal activities.
Talk to your surgeon to see if you qualify for minimally invasive spine surgery
Before you consider minimally invasive spine surgery, consult with a fellowship-trained orthopedic spine surgeon. Every case is unique and the appropriate decision must be discussed with a qualified, experienced professional. Here at Precision Spine & Orthopedics, our team takes pride in offering the most up to date and advanced orthopedic and spine care to help you make the right decision.