For a small percentage of patients suffering fromback or neck pain, laser spine surgery may becomean option. However, conservative treatments, suchas physical therapy, pain medication, and others areusually the first line of defense and are often ableto mitigate symptoms that can arise as a result of acommon degenerative spine condition. If severalweeks or months of conservative methods fail toprovide relief, a laser spine procedure could helptreat the symptoms caused by certain spineconditions.
Conditions TreatedLaser spine surgery can be used to treat a variety of degenerative spineconditions that have resulted in the development of anatomicalabnormalities and the compression or irritation of local nerves, thespinal cord, or nerve roots. Some of the most common conditions thatcan be treated with a laser spine procedure include: • Herniated discs • Bulging discs • Bone spurs • Low-grade spondylolisthesis • Sciatica • Spinal stenosis • Spinal osteoarthritis
Laser Spine Procedures Compared to Open Spine SurgeryThere are many different approaches to spine surgery and the specific approach selected will depend largely ona patients condition, overall health, lifestyle, and other factors. There are, however, two main categories ofspine surgery: laser spine surgery and open spine surgery. While each type of spine operation will have themain goal of relieving symptoms of pain, tingling, numbness, and muscle weakness, a laser spine procedure is afar less invasive surgery compared to an open back or neck operation.For example, during an open spine surgery, a surgeon must make a large incision in theneck, throat, abdomen, or back, and dissect or detach muscles and other soft tissues to gain access to theaffected area of the spine. A laser spine procedure, on the other hand, requires only a small incision, typicallyless than one inch in length. Instead of soft tissue dissection, a series of telescoping tubes of increasingdiameters is placed into the incision, gently pushing aside tissues. These procedures utilize an endoscope, orcamera, which is fed through the tube along with tiny surgical tools and a laser, and allows a surgeon to “see”inside the spine via images displayed on a monitor.To relieve pressure on the spinal cord or nerve root during an open spine surgery, a large portion of spinalanatomy is removed, which may compromise the structural integrity of the spine. To remedy this, spinal fusionmay be performed, requiring rods, screws, bone grafts, and other supporting hardware to fuse two vertebraetogether and improve spinal stability. Spinal fusion typically isnt necessary after an endoscopic spineprocedure because only the portion of soft tissue or bone in contact with the spinal cord or nerve root isvaporized or excised. As a result, the spinal anatomy is left largely intact and the spine remains relatively stable.
Benefits of Laser Spine ProceduresFor a patient considering back or neck surgery to treat adegenerative spine condition like bulging or herniateddiscs, spinal stenosis, or spinal arthritis, laser spine surgery couldoffer a considerable number of advantages. These might include:• No hospitalization – Endoscopic laser spine procedures are performed on an outpatient basis and no overnight hospital stay is required.• A faster recovery – The recovery period associated with a laser spine procedure is often much less difficult and lengthy when compared to the recovery after open spine surgery.
Understand Your Surgical OptionsBefore consenting to any elective surgery, a patientshould always consult his or her doctor or a spinespecialist to first determine that all nonsurgical treatmentmethods have first been exhausted. Secondly, a patientshould check with a credentialed and reputable laserspine facility to find out whether he or she is a candidatefor a laser spine procedure. Its important to keep in mindthat, while minimally invasive, a laser spine surgery is stilla medical operation, so patients should be 100 percentcomfortable with all the risks and benefits associatedwith his or her chosen procedure.