LASER spine surgery is a loosely used term by patients to indicate minimally invasive spine surgeries. In fact, LASER (Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) is a type of light. It can be used for certain specific spinal procedures. LASER light is delivered at target pathology with the help of probes for a specific amount of time. LASER spine surgery is primarily done under local anaesthesia as a day care procedure.
LASER Spine Surgery: How it works?
- LASER can be used as a stand-alone treatment, as in lumbar disc pathologies. LASER light is emitted inside the disc space near the site of disc prolapse. This generates local heat and coagulates/ liquifies disc tissue causing reduction in disc pressure. Pressure on spinal nerve is reduced leading to symptomatic improvement.
- Generated heat will also destroy nerve endings in the disc space, leading to decreased pain of disc degeneration.
- Disc tissue released in spinal canal can be a source of inflammatory reaction around the nerve roots. This will irritate spinal nerve in addition to mechanical pressure caused by disc tissue. LASER will neutralize this disc tissue, leading to reduction in inflammation around the spinal nerve roots.
- LASER is also commonly used with endoscopic spinal surgeries to remove part of bone, ligament or disc compressing spinal nerves.
Disadvantages/ Limitations of LASER Spine Surgery:
- LASER can damage spinal tissue if delivered at wrong site.
- LASER procedure does not lead to thorough decompression of spinal nerves.
- A LASER treated disc is prone to accelerated degeneration due to damage caused by heat.
It is important to discuss possible benefits and risks associated with a LASER spine procedure with your spine specialist, and compare them with available minimally invasive/ traditional spine surgery procedures before making decision about the procedure. Very few and specific spine pathologies can be targeted using a LASER.