When you think of spine surgery, you probably envision a big incision leaving a nasty scar, as well as a long and painful recovery. Fortunately, modern technology has provided less invasive procedures and solutions that mean much shorter recuperations and barely-there scars. These minimally-invasive procedures represent a sea change in the treatments that can be offered to patients suffering from a variety of painful conditions. But are all of the new procedures equal? Let’s look at two that have been getting a lot of attention recently: laser spine surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery.
Both minimally invasive spine surgery and laser spine surgery share the same goals: to provide improvement to medical conditions involving the spine while reducing trauma, pain and blood loss to involved tissue and enabling faster recovery. Both use very small incisions. But laser spine surgery uses a laser to make the incisions and then inserts the instrument into the back to remove offending tissue, while minimally invasive spine surgery uses a scalpel to make these incisions, then inserts an endoscope and operating instruments through those cuts to allow visualization and repair of the surgical site.
Both of these procedures provide advantages over open surgery, but that does not mean that they are equal or provide the same results. Though lasers have a state-of-the-art, highly technological appeal, there are disadvantages that limit their use. The first thing that needs to be understood is that the use of lasers by no means that no scalpels will end up being used during a procedure. Lasers are straight beams of light that do not bend or allow adjustments for the body’s curves. Where maneuvering is required, a scalpel will still need to be used. Scalpels and other operating instruments are also needed for cuts needed to remove ligaments and bone, as laser can only successful remove soft tissue.
Another disadvantage of the use of laser spine surgery is that it relies exclusively on heat for its effectiveness, and this can be transferred through tissue to surrounding structures, causing great harm. Where a scalpel in the hands of a skilled surgeon provides a high degree of flexibility and the ability to make minute incisions and moves, a laser can end up doing unintended harm, particularly to the intricate web of nerves that are part of the spine and its surrounding region.
Before making a decision to undergo laser spine surgery, patients who are struggling with back pain are encouraged to thoroughly research the advantages and disadvantages of the different procedures available and which is most appropriate for their particular condition. Where laser may be highly effective, and even appropriate, for some specific situations, there are others where its use may leave you worse off than you started. To speak with a skilled spine surgeon about the approach that is best for you, contact our office today to set up an appointment.