Laser Spine Surgery: A Few Words Of Caution
There is an old adage; “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
There is some degree of truth to this statement. Unfortunately, it applies to many situations when dealing with the healthcare industry. It also perhaps happens to be best way to summarize the utility of the laser in the setting of spinal conditions.
Far Reaching Imagination
The laser captures a person’s spectrum of thoughts. It directs our imagination to many wonderful memories that are both real and fictional. Under the unwitting influence of our imagination, we conjure thoughts of light sabres, medical doctors on starships and sometimes recommend physical therapists. It is natural for a patient to seek these latest and greatest treatments; whether they are imaginative is irrelevant.
The laser has created a few and substantial medical advances in the field of medicine. However, these advances have NOT been applied to the same degree in the field of spine surgery. The specialist team at Spine Physicians Institute advises all of its patients throughout it’s our offices to take caution when it comes to the so-called “advanced” laser spine surgery procedures.
A Word of Caution
Both surgeons and many more non-surgeons are currently aggressively marketing this concept. They are utilizing words like laser spine institute, laser spine surgery, minimally invasive laser spine surgery, etc. Primarily, they discuss utilizing laser as means to burn away disc material. Thereby removing pressure off the nerve and thus improving the patient’s underlying pain. This has resulted in substantial marketing in the form of billboards, TV commercials, and pop-up ads. They can be seen throughout the internet or other means that the consumer encounters on a daily basis.
In reality, there is no substantial medical data to support the surgical efficacy or safety of these procedures. Most of the medical literature available to date is driven by the manufactures of these devices. There are no well-regarded double-blinded studies that are independently performed without industry support. The most well-respected spine surgeons in the world are not touting let alone utilizing these technologies. In the reputed academic centres, such as the Thomas Jefferson University and the Mayo Clinic, where the honorable Dr. Venkat Sethuraman has trained, they have never utilized any of these gimmick methods.
There are those who aggressively market the use of the laser in spine surgery. They describe it being performed through incisions that are 10 mm or less. There are primarily two laser procedures that are being marketed to the consumer.
- In one method, through either a needle or small incision the disc is accessed and then burned with a laser.
- The other utilizes a fibre optic endoscope that enters the spinal canal through the sacrum to give access to the disc. It is then burned with the laser.
Non-Viability of Such Procedures
Through these approaches, the surgeons are less adept to visualizing and directly decompressing a compressed nerve. Furthermore, it much more difficult to handle cerebrospinal leaks, excessive bleeding, or unexpected extruded disc herniations. In addition, there is much literature documenting the in the ineffectiveness of the laser in treating large disc herniations. There is also substantial literature demonstrating a higher failure rate and higher complication rate.
Comparison with Standard Microdiscectomy
In comparison, a standard microdiscectomy is performed through a 25 mm incision. When utilizing a standard microdiscectomy, visualization is not compromised. Moreover, the safety is optimized while working on the very delicate structures that control our body’s sensation, strength, and bowel & bladder function.
We would never recommend a patient to undergo a laser procedure. We would advise them to opt for standard microdiscectomy instead. In summation, we refer you to the table and links below so you can make your own decision.
For more questions, contact our offices located in Dallas, Irving, Red Oak, Plano, Southlake, Grapevine, Colleyville and Duncanville marketplaces. Please visit our Locations and Hours page on our website. We treat patients throughout the Dallas, Fort Worth metroplex including patients from Southlake, Coppell, Carrollton, Richardson, Gainesville, Denton, Weatherford, McKinney, Frisco, Tyler. We even treat patients from outside the state of Texas and in the International community.