Laser Spine Procedures –A Safe & Effective Alternative to Open Spine Surgery
Laser spine procedures are state-of-the-artsurgeries that can help certain patients find relieffrom back and neck pain caused by degenerativespine conditions. While most individuals sufferingfrom these common spine conditions can find reliefafter several weeks or months of conservative(nonsurgical) treatments – such as pain medication,hot/cold therapy, and others – a small percentageof patients may find these treatments to beineffective. In these cases, elective laser spinesurgery may be an option.
The Minimally Invasive ApproachElective spine surgery may be recommended to relieve severe pain, tingling, numbness,and/or muscle weakness caused by a bulging or herniated disc, calcified ligament, bonespur, spinal stenosis, or spinal osteoarthritis. These widespread conditions can lead to theinflammation or compression of nerves in the spine, and in some cases, can greatly preventpatients from performing day-to-day activities.Laser spine procedures are considered minimally invasive decompression procedures,which means they do not require large incisions; and the soft tissues surrounding the spinalanatomy, and the spinal components themselves, are left largely intact. This lowinvasiveness is achieved due to a surgeon’s use of an endoscope, or camera, along with alaser and tiny surgical tools, which are threaded through the small incision to gain access tothe affected area of the spine.Laser spine surgery is unique in this way because it takes quite a different approach thanthe highly invasive open spine surgery that used to be the only option for patients. Openback or neck surgery requires large incisions in the neck, throat, back, or abdomen, and asignificant dissection of the musculature and other soft tissues around the spine to achieveneural decompression. As a result, patients who have undergone open spine surgery oftenface a difficult and time-consuming rehabilitation process.
Common Complaints that Lead Patients to Laser Spine SurgeryAs mentioned previously, conservative treatments can often mitigate symptoms, but a doctormay recommend that a patient elect to have spine surgery in the event symptoms persistand/or become debilitating. Compression of local joint nerves, the spinal cord, and/or a nerveroot can cause many different symptoms to arise, and where discomfort is felt will dependlargely on the location of compression in the spine.For example, if a patient has a bulgingdisc that is compressing a neural structurein the cervical (neck) region of the spine, heor she may experience localized neck painand muscle spasms, as well as pain,numbness, tingling, and weakness that canaffect the upper back, shoulders, arms, andhands. Conversely, a patient with nerve compressionin the lumbar (lower back) region of the spine mayexperience similar symptoms that affect the lowerback, hips, buttocks, legs, and feet.
Types of ProceduresThere are several types of laser spine procedures that can be used to treatnerve irritation or compression. For example, the following surgeries can beperformed via an endoscopic approach with the aid of lasers: • Discectomy – removal of herniated or bulging disc material to relieve pressure on a neural structure • Laminotomy – partial removal of lamina bone to increase space surrounding the spinal cord • Foraminotomy – partial removal of vertebral bone that forms a foramen to increase space surrounding a compressed nerve root • Facet thermal ablation – deadening of the medial branch nerves that innervate facet joints in the spine; irritation of these nerves may result from spinal arthritis
Ask Your DoctorTo find out if one or more laser spine procedures couldhelp you find relief from back or neck pain, talk a spinespecialist at a laser spine facility and obtain severaladditional medical opinions. This can help you confirmthat all other nonsurgical treatments have beenattempted and verify your original diagnosis. You shouldalso conduct your own research into the surgical optionsthat may be available to you. The decision to undergospine surgery should not be taken lightly and itsimportant to carefully weigh all of the advantages anddisadvantages associated with these procedures.