The Myth of Laser Spine Surgery

Many people are under the impression that a laser is the main surgical tool used in the procedure advertised as laser spine surgery. That couldn’t be farther from the truth, according to back painneurosurgeon Dr. Scott Simon of Orthopaedic and Neurosurgery Specialists (ONS).

What’s more, Dr. Simon believes that use of a laser in spine surgery is more of a marketing gimmick than surgical innovation. “The laser is only used to remove the soft tissue over the spine after an incision has been made and the surgeon performs whatever minimally invasive procedure is called for,” Dr. Simon explained. “Using a laser actually creates an unnecessary step to the surgery.” If soft tissue needs to be removed from the spine, electrocautery, in which a heated needle is used, is a more effective technique, he added

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. “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,” Dr. Simon said, adding that ONS neurosurgeons do not use or recommend laser spine surgery.

The laser is in fact just a light that burns soft tissues and is unable to remove ligaments, discs, bone or bone spurs. It is actually much less precise than the more modern surgical tools. Bone spurs that press on nerves or the spinal cord, for instance, 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,” Dr. Simon said.

The majority of spine conditions can be effectively treated without surgery, noted Dr. Simon. When surgery is recommended, he advises patients to carefully research the qualifications of the neurosurgeon and surgical facility. “Minimally invasive spine surgery, fusionless spine surgery and outpatient spine surgery are often advertised as the latest advances in spine care, when in fact the specialists at ONS and elsewhere have been performing and improving these procedures for nearly 20 years,” he said.

Schedule a consultation with an ONS spine specialist at our offices in Greenwich or Stamford, CT or in Harrison, NY by calling 203-869-1145 or submit this online form.