Laser spinal surgery, a form of minimally invasive spine surgery, has become a popular option for those looking to relieve back pain due to disc herniation.  The laser spine surgery technique has been heavily marketed but has, as yet, little in the way of clinical trial data to show effectiveness or safety.  Many orthopaedic hospitals do not use the procedure despite a large number of laser spinal surgery having been carried out over the past few decades, and few reports of complication.  Laser spine surgery has the benefit of requiring a smaller incision than the traditional open back surgery and can significantly reduce the length of the operation and the recovery period for patients.  As the procedure is carried out often under local anaesthesia, patients may feel relief from their symptoms instantly and can be mobile within a matter of minutes after the operation.  Recovery time is usually around two weeks with patients able to return to work considerably earlier than if undergoing an open back operation.

Laser Spine Surgery Video

Drawbacks of Laser Spine Surgery

The drawback of laser spinal surgery is that the lasers cannot cut through bone so are only useful if the spinal compression, nerve impingement, or stenosis, is being caused by a bulging or herniated disc or disc fragment.  Osteophyte growth presents a challenge for laser surgery and a more traditional method, or tools, would be required to remove this source of nerve compression.  The technique of laser spinal surgery is similar to other minimal access procedures as it uses a small incision to feed a laser and camera into the area of the disc herniation.  The laser is then used to vaporise the problematic disc material thereby, hopefully, relieving the compression on the nerve.  The material itself is not removed during laser surgery but the overall pressure of the disc on the nerve is reduced.  This can result in the need for additional surgery at a later date. In addition, facet nerves are sometimes ablated (burned off) during a procedure if there is arthritis present in the facet joints. This procedure is known as a facet thermal ablation. Typically this procedure is done in tandem with another procedure and is only a temporary fix for facet arthritis because nerves grow back over time. One thing to note is many times minimally invasive spine surgery is wrongly referred to as laser spine surgery when in reality the laser is assisting in the minimally invasive surgery.
Laser spine surgery