What is laser disc surgery?
Laser disc surgery is a minimally invasive type of surgical technique that uses lasers to remove or shrink portions of soft tissue around the spine that may be pressing on or pinching nerves. The procedure is only appropriate for certain conditions and not recommended for degenerative spine diseases. It is not to be confused with MISS, which is a more traditional type of back surgery that requires incisions and sometimes the use of lasers.
What conditions can laser disc surgery treat?
Laser disc surgery can be used for the treatment of:
- slipped discs that are difficult to access using traditional surgery such as microdiscectomy
- spinal stenosis
- nerve pain referring into the legs or arms
- foraminal stenosis
- radiculopathy (pinched nerve)
How is laser disc surgery performed?
Laser disc surgery is performed under local anaesthetic and mild sedation. It does not require a skin incision, unlike traditional back surgery. The entire procedure takes around 15 minutes and the patient can walk shortly after the procedure.
A needle is inserted into the affected disc with X-ray guidance in the operating theatre. A special laser probe is then inserted through a needle and the tip of the laser is positioned into the soft part of the disc. The laser probe then delivers energy into the disc and vaporises a small portion of it. The remaining disc subsequently shrinks into the spinal cavity that was created by the laser and therefore, reducing pressure on nerves or the spinal cord.
Are there any side-effects of laser disc surgery?
It is rare for a patient to experience any complications because the procedure is performed under X-ray guidance, there are no skin incisions needed and it doesn’t cause any muscle or bone damage.
Complications might include temporary numbness or weakness or injury caused by incorrect laser application. This is why the procedure can only be performed by specialist surgeons who are trained in the use of lasers for spinal surgery. One drawback to laser disc surgery is that you may need additional surgery for your condition, depending on the complexity of it.
Who is a good candidate for this procedure?
This procedure is especially suitable for elderly patients and patients with underlying medical problems and can’t receive general anaesthesia or undergo traditional surgery.
What is the recovery time like?
While recovery time can vary between patients, it is usually quick and most people return to work the next day.
Which type of specialist performs laser disc surgery?
A specialist that performs laser disc surgery is an orthopaedic surgeon or spinal surgeon.