Laser Spine Surgery

“What is laser spine surgery?”

The term “laser spine surgery” implies to many people that surgery is accomplished without an incision. This is a common misconception. The important word in “laser spine surgery” is the word surgery.

In laser spine surgery, as in traditional surgery, an incision is made. Bone, ligament, and sometimes discs are removed using traditional surgical tools. The laser is only used to remove the soft tissues over the spine, a step that is often unnecessary in more modern minimally invasive techniques. When the soft tissues do need to be removed over the spine, it is more effectively accomplished by use of the electrocautery.

Lasers are certainly not new technology.  Lasers have been available for use in medicine since 1973.  However, they have not been widely adopted as a tool to be used in spinal surgery.  The fact is that most neurosurgeons do not use or recommend the use of lasers for spine surgery because there are no clear benefits and there are other well-established and documented studies proving the effectiveness of more modern and established spine surgery techniques.

The laser is in fact  just a light that burns soft tissues and is unable to remove bone. It is actually much less precise than the more modern surgical tools and the laser is unable to remove bone spurs. However, bone spurs that press on nerves or the spinal cord are easily taken care of through minimally invasive spine surgery. The outcomes are excellent and patients often go home the same day as their procedure.

ONS neurosurgeons do not use or recommend laser spine surgery.

Learn more about surgery techniques and treatment options at ONS by viewing Conditions and Treatments of the Spine.