For many people dealing with chronic neck and back pain, spine surgery is seen as a treatment of last resort. But if weeks or months of nonsurgical therapies have not brought relief and pain begins to disrupt quality of life, it can start to become a serious consideration.
Why do so many people want to delay or avoid spine surgery? Because in the past, traditional open spine surgery usually meant a large incision, significant muscle disruption and a long, difficult recovery period.
But now thanks to minimally invasive laser spine surgery, it is possible to find lasting relief from a range of spine conditions through an outpatient, muscle-sparing approach. If you have heard about laser spine surgery but have questions, this helpful guide will tell you everything you need to know about these exciting procedures.
What Is Laser Spine Surgery?
The term “laser spine surgery” is often used as a general substitute for a range of minimally invasive procedures used to relieve pain related to spine conditions. In particular, laser spine surgery describes minimally invasive decompression surgeries that relieve nerve compression, or a pinched nerve, by removing displaced spinal tissue. Laser spine surgery can include specific procedures such as microdiscectomy, laminotomy and facet thermal ablation.
Thanks to the advancement of state-of-the-art surgical technology and specialized techniques, spine surgeons are now able to access the spine using a much smaller incision, often less than one inch, compared to traditional open spine surgery. Additionally, laser spine surgery will often use muscle sparing techniques that help to limit damage to surrounding soft tissue. This can help to shorten the recovery period and limit the risk of complications such as bleeding and infection.
How Is the Laser Used?
Medical lasers play a key role in laser spine surgery, but not as big of a role as many people think. In most procedures, surgeons will make a small incision with a scalpel and other surgical tools to access the treatment site, and use endoscopic technology and high definition monitors to view the area and perform the procedure. The surgeon may use the laser to remove small amounts of displaced or damaged spine material. In a facet thermal ablation, the surgeon will use a laser to carefully ablate painful nerve endings that cause facet joint pain.
How Long Does the Procedure Last?
The length of a laser spine surgery depends on the specific procedure and individual patient factors. Many surgeries can be performed in as little as 60 to 90 minutes. Because of the minimally invasive nature of the procedure, laser spine surgery can be performed on an outpatient basis, with patients returning home or to a hotel once released.
What Conditions Does Laser Spine Surgery Treat?
Laser spine surgery can treat a number of degenerative spine conditions that cause spinal nerve compression and related symptoms such as local pain, radiating pain, tingling, numbness, muscle weakness and limited mobility. Conditions treated by minimally invasive laser spine surgery include:
- Bulging discs
- Herniated discs
- Bone spurs
- Facet disease
- Degenerative disc disease
- Spinal stenosis
It is important to receive an accurate diagnosis and a thorough evaluation before undergoing laser spine surgery.
Who Is a Candidate for Laser Spine Surgery?
Candidates for laser spine surgery will have a spine condition that is causing chronic, debilitating pain due to nerve compression and have not found relief from a full course of conservative therapies. For a large number of patients, options such as physical therapy or interventional pain management can be highly effective in achieving the relief necessary for a good quality of life.
Patients considering laser spine surgery will need to undergo a full medical screening and evaluation to ensure they are able to undergo the procedure and that there is an operable condition that has been positively identified as the source of symptoms.
What Is the Recovery Process for Laser Spine Surgery?
Your laser spine surgery provider will provide detailed instructions on what to expect before and after the procedure. Many patients are up and walking within hours of the procedure and can resume light activities within days.
Full recovery and return to work times depend on the condition, procedure and individual patient factors. Some patients recovering from laser spine surgery can be back at work in a manner of weeks. It is critical to follow all postsurgical instructions for caring for the surgical site and resuming activities to ensure a safe and speedy recovery.
Laser Spine Surgery at Physician Partners of America
The highly skilled surgeons at Physician Partners of America (PPOA) are among the pioneers of laser spine surgery procedures. Our minimally invasive spine procedures can be performed with a less than one inch incision, compared to five inches or more used in traditional open spine surgery. At our state-of-the-art outpatient facilities we help patients dealing with a wide range of conditions find long-term relief and a return to an active lifestyle.
Contact PPOA Today
We are committed to helping people achieve a pain-free life. If you have fully explored nonsurgical options and want to find out if you may be a candidate for minimally invasive laser spine surgery, contact our caring team today.