Laser spine surgery is a controversial topic among spine surgeons. Some believe they improve upon minimally invasive surgery, while others believe traditional techniques are more effective. There are a lot of misconceptions about laser spine surgery, so let’s set the record straight.
The Difference Between Laser Spine Surgery and Minimally Invasive Surgery
The goal of minimally invasive spinal surgery is to minimize trauma to the tissues surrounding the spine, resulting in less pain, less blood loss, and a faster recovery time. This is achieved by performing the surgery through smaller incisions, using an operating microscope or endoscope to view the structures of the spine. The endoscope is inserted into one small incision, and the scalpel and other operating instruments are inserted into another small incision. The muscles in the back run vertically, so the muscles are separated along the natural muscle planes to gain access to the spine. Because the muscles are not cut, healing time is greatly reduced as compared to traditional open spine surgery.
Laser spine surgery is often used alongside minimally invasive techniques. Doctors who perform laser spine surgery claim that it is more efficient and effective than minimally invasive spine surgery using more traditional surgical methods. A laser is used to make the necessary cuts rather than the scalpel used in more traditional surgery. However, laser spine surgery does not mean that the procedure will be incision-free; an incision is needed to insert the laser into the appropriate area. The laser is then used to remove any soft tissues that need to be removed. It is a common misconception that the majority of the procedure is done with a laser, but in fact, lasers only play a small role in the procedure. Other operating instruments are necessary to remove bone and ligaments.
Why Dr. Gleiber Uses Minimally Invasive Surgery
While lasers can be effective for some procedures, they aren’t necessary to achieve successful results. Most people consider laser surgery to be the most up-to-date, top-of-the-line surgery available, but in many cases spine surgery is more effective when the surgeon uses minimally invasive techniques with a scalpel, rather than a laser.
Because a laser is a straight beam of light, it doesn’t have the ability to maneuver around corners to reach the appropriate areas. Lasers cut the soft tissue using heat, which can be transferred to the structures surrounding the area being worked on. This can lead to nerve damage, which can cause incontinence and loss of function. With a skilled surgeon, a scalpel is just as precise as a laser without the risk of damage from heat. The majority of clinical studies in well respected peer reviewed journals call into question the efficacy of lasers regarding spine surgery. In short, some surgeons do not feel that laser spine surgery provides any real improvement to minimally invasive spine surgery.
Patients should be aware of their options and the risks involved when considering any surgical procedure. Even if a procedure is less invasive, it is still surgery; any decision made should be done with careful consideration of the risks and benefits.