Laser spine procedures generally treat nerve irritation and/orcompression caused by common degenerative conditions of theneck and back. Over time, the anatomical components of thespine begin to deteriorate, which could result in structuralabnormalities that put pressure on spinal joints, a spinal nerveroot, or the spinal cord. Common symptoms that laser spinesurgeries aim to mitigate include pain, tingling, numbness, andmuscle weakness in the back, neck, and/or extremities.Some of the most common degenerative spine conditions thatare often treated with laser spine surgery are herniated discs,bulging discs, bone spurs, spondylolisthesis, foraminal stenosis,and canal stenosis.
Types of Laser Spine ProceduresThere are a variety of laser spine procedures available, and the surgical approach that is best foryou will depend on your general level of health and your condition. Not all patients who sufferfrom one or more of the above conditions will be candidates for minimally invasive laser spinesurgery. The following procedures are examples of those that can be performed under the laserspine surgery umbrella: • Facet thermal ablation – a heat source (laser) is used to desensitize the local nerve that innervates a spinal joint; usually recommended for patients with spinal osteoarthritis • Percutaneous discectomy – removes disc material so that the disc is no longer pressing on a spinal nerve root or spinal cord; recommended for patients with herniated discs or bulging discs • Foraminotomy – widens the passageway on one side of a vertebra so that a spinal nerve root can pass unimpeded; usually recommended for patients with foraminal stenosis • Laminotomy – widens the spinal canal by removing a portion of the lamina; recommended for patients with central canal stenosis • Minimally invasive stabilization – bone graft implants used to replace a damaged disc and facilitate fusion of the adjacent vertebrae; recommended only in rare cases of severe disc degeneration
The Drawbacks of Open Spine SurgeryIn the past, the only surgical option for patients suffering fromcommon degenerative spine conditions was an open spine surgery.This type of surgery involves a large incision and dissection of musclesand other soft tissues so that the surgeon can gain full access to theaffected region of the spine. A significant portion of the spinalanatomy is usually removed, which may then require the implantationof a bone graft and hardware to stabilize the spine. The highly invasivenature of this surgery brings an increased chance of complicationssuch as nerve damage, excessive blood loss, infection, and failed backsurgery syndrome (FBSS), when compared to less invasive endoscopicprocedures. Today, endoscopic technology makes it possible for laserspine procedures to provide certain patients with an alternative toopen spine surgery.
The Benefits of Laser Spine SurgeryEndoscopic laser spineprocedures offer avariety of benefits overopen spine surgeries,including:• No hospitalization• A small incision• No dissection of muscles or ligaments• Less risk of infection and blood loss• A fast recovery period
Choosing a Surgeon Who Performs Laser Spine ProceduresIf you have attempted a wide range of conservative (nonsurgical) treatmentsover the course of several weeks or months and have still not seen anyimprovement in your symptoms, spine surgery may become an option foryou. Be sure to talk to several different spine specialists about whether theyfeel an endoscopic surgery or an open spine surgery would offer you the bestchance for pain relief and improved quality of life.As you evaluate surgeons, make sure you gather as much information aspossible about their experience. Ask how long the surgeon has beenperforming laser spine procedures or open spine procedures and what thestatistics are for favorable patient outcomes and overall patient satisfaction.You may also want to ask each surgeon for lists of credentials and patientreferences. Taking a tour of various surgical facilities is also a good way to geta feel for the environment in which you will be having your procedure.