-By Andrew Cash, M.D.
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Your back hurts! And you’re looking for a treatment that will make the pain stop.
You’ve read about laser spine surgery, and you’re interested in how it may help relieve your back pain.
There’s been lots of press about laser spine surgery, and while it can help some back conditions and it does benefit some people, it seems to benefit those with only minor spine problems.
What IS Laser Spine Surgery?
Laser spine surgery uses a laser to remove tissue with heat rather that with traditional instruments. While it may be seen as “modern” or a “magic bullet,” in truth, the use of lasers has been around for a long time. Lasers use a focused beam of light to cut soft tissue.
1. It’s minimally invasive;
2. Fast recovery time; and
3. For minor conditions, laser spine surgery can be effective.
1. For most painful back conditions, laser spine surgery is not effective;
2. Laser spine surgery can truly only be used for a very small number of minor spine conditions;
3. Laser surgery can result in a procedure which does not completely address or alleviate the problem (inadequate operation), which sometimes means you’ll need additional surgery;
4. Pain may actually be caused by back instability and laser surgery does not address or alleviate this condition;
5. Using a laser during surgery can sometimes limit nerve damage, but in the hands of an inexperienced surgeon, a laser can actually increase the chances of tissue or nerve damage;
6. Using a laser scalpel can be less effective and pose more risk than other minimally invasive procedures;
7. The heat from the laser can damage adjacent nerves and lead to increased pain;
8. Laser spine surgery is not taught in medical schools and is not considered a viable approach to spine surgery by medical advisory boards;
9. Laser spine surgery is generally not covered by health insurance; and
10. You don’t have to be a surgeon to perform laser spine surgery.
A Very Important Consideration
Laser spine surgery does not have to be performed by a spine surgeon.
Therefore, practitioners who do not have the education, experience or understanding of the anatomy and function of the spine can legally perform laser spine surgery.
A wise plan of action is to have an exam and consultation with a spine surgeon who is both Board-Certified and Fellowship Trained. At that exam, your spine surgeon can explain all options available for treatment of your particular (and unique) condition. Before committing to any spinal procedure, it’s wise to consider non-surgical options such as physical therapy, medication, and supervised exercise.
If surgery is indicated, explore all options available, including minimally invasive procedures that offer the benefits of less post-procedure pain and shorter recovery time. Statistics prove, more complicated back problems often require traditional surgery for the best outcome.
Andrew M. Cash, M.D., is a board certified orthopedic spine surgeon specializing in neck and back care with a focus on minimally invasive operative treatments. His practice—Desert Institute of Spine Care—is located at 9339 West Sunset Rd., Suite #100, Las Vegas, NV 89148. For more information, visit www.disclv.com or call 702.630.3472.