Laser Spine Surgery – Facts & Fictions
Simple Clarifying Facts About Laser Spine Surgery
Fact: There is no such procedure or surgery as Laser Spine Surgery.
The laser is simply a tool that MAY be used in spine procedures or surgery to ablate disc tissue, ligaments and small bone spurs. Surgeons often used radiofrequency ablation in lieu of a laser, which is equally as effective on tissue but much safer. In the hands of a well-trained, board-certified spine surgeon, the laser can be a useful tool to modulate (shrink) or ablate tissue, remove scar tissue, adhesions and boney osteophytes. The surgeon can equally accomplish these things with radiofrequency ablation and endoscopic motorized burrs.
The term Laser Spine Surgery is mainly a marketing term used on the internet, to attract patients who are suffering in pain as an alternative to spine surgery. Laser spine surgery has not been shown to be as effective or more effective than traditional spine surgery. The surgeons who offer this procedure make the same incision as traditional spine surgery techniques with tubular retractors.
Fact: A Laser is only a tool used in spine surgery.
The most common laser, if used at all in spine surgery, is a holmium YAG laser. The straight-firing or side-firing laser beam is helpful to shrink or ablate tissue, adhesions, scarred tissue or osteophytes (bone). The laser is only one tool of many that is used in surgery. Spinal procedures and surgery are performed often without any need for a laser. Using the laser has not shown clinically to improve the surgical outcomes.
Fiction: Laser spine surgery is less invasive than minimally invasive surgery (MIS).
This statement has never been proven in a clinical study. Laser spine surgery is not an actual surgery. Laser is a tool and can be used in open spine surgery, minimally invasive surgery or least invasive endoscopic procedures. Again, a laser is only one of many tools used by a spine surgeon in surgery. The misconception is that having laser spine surgery is better and faster recovery than minimally invasive surgery.
Least invasive endoscopic procedures use the smallest access tubes (7mm vs.12-25mm MIS), smaller incisions, and an endoscope in a true arthroscopic (HD Scope in a water environment) to maximize surgeon visualization. The endoscopic procedure allows the surgeon to pinpoint and remove pain generators such as a herniated disc fragment or a boney osteophyte that is causing pain. This procedure has clinically shown to minimize patient post-surgical recovery versus traditional and MIS spine surgery.
Fiction: A laser is needed in spine surgery.
Although a laser can be useful in some surgical cases, it is NOT absolutely needed to have a successful outcome for the patient. In fact, when it comes to decompressing large herniated disc or large bone spurs, a grasper or high-speed burr are faster and more effective tools than a laser.
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