If you’re considering undergoing some form of laser spine treatment for yourback or neck pain, it’s important to discuss your available options with adoctor. Not all laser treatments are the same, and the procedure orprocedures you may be a candidate for will depend largely on your specificspine condition; the region of the spine that is affected; and the severity,frequency, and location of symptoms.Although laser spine procedures vary, they do generally share a common goal:to relieve pain caused by irritated, compressed, or inflamed nerves in thespine. This nerve pain often is caused by pressure being placed on the spinalcord or a nerve root that has been compressed by an anatomical abnormality,such as a bulging or herniated disc, bone spur, calcified ligament, or displacedvertebra. Decompression is typically achieved by removing a portion of boneor soft tissue.Laser procedures are performed endoscopically, which means an endoscope(camera), laser, and small surgical tools are funneled through a series of tubesthat have been inserted into a small incision in the neck or back. This methodoffers patients a much less invasive alternative to open spine surgery.
Types of Laser Spine ProceduresAs mentioned previously, there are a variety of laser spine treatment options that may be available toyou. These procedures include: • Foraminotomy – This procedure involves the removal of vertebral bone that forms a foramen, or a passageway on either side of a vertebral segment through which spinal nerve roots exit as they branch off the spinal cord. Removing a portion of bone, or clearing out degenerated disc material, can help to widen a foramen and relieve pressure placed on a compressed nerve root. • Laminotomy – Similar to a foraminotomy, a laminotomy also involves the removal of vertebral bone. In this case, a portion of the thin, bony plates that form laminae are removed. Laminae are situated between the spinous and articular processes on vertebrae and form a protective arch around the posterior (back) side of the spinal cord. Removal of lamina bone can help to widen the spinal canal and relieve pressure placed on a compressed spinal cord. • Endoscopic discectomy – This procedure focuses on removing a portion of bulging or herniated disc material. The disc material can either be vaporized by a laser or excised with surgical tools, depending on a patient’s specific situation. A discectomy can relieve the pressure placed on a nerve root or the spinal cord caused by a degenerative disc. • Facet thermal ablation – While the procedures previously mentioned are true decompression procedures, facet thermal ablation takes a slightly different approach. Instead of removing bone or disc tissue to relieve pressure on a pinched neural structure, this procedure deadens painful medial branch nerves that innervate a facet joint. These delicate nerves can become irritated by the inflammation, bone spurs, and grinding movements that characterize spinal osteoarthritis.
Additional OptionsAdditionally, some laser spine facilities may even offer intervertebraldisc regeneration and minimally invasive spine stabilizationprocedures. The disc regeneration process involves low-level laserdecompression to relieve pressure on the spinal cord or a nerve root,then the injection of your own stem cells (undifferentiated cells thatare capable of differentiating into specialized cell types) to helppromote healing and repair of a deteriorating disc.Minimally invasive spine stabilization involves the same endoscopictechniques used in the laser spine treatment options described earlier,but includes the complete removal of a bulging or herniated disc, andthe placement of a supportive implant, bone graft material, screws,and rods to effectively stabilize the spine.
Before You Consent to SurgeryExcept in emergency situations, it’s unlikely that yourdoctor will recommend any surgery, let alone laser spinetreatment, as a first option. In fact, your doctor willprobably initially recommend that you complete a courseof conservative, nonsurgical treatments. Conservativemethods are widely regarded throughout the mainstreammedical community as effective options for symptomrelief. Some of the most common therapies include non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, pain medication,physical therapy, low-impact exercise, hot/cold therapy,and others.
Ask Your DoctorIf several weeks ormonths of conservativetreatments fail to relieveyour back or neck pain,laser spine treatmentmay become an option.Check with your doctor,and contact a laser spinefacility, regarding yourcandidacy for lasersurgery.