There’s something about the term “laser surgery” that automatically suggests “cutting edge,” the apex of technology. We automatically assume that the use of lasers suggests unmatched surgical precision. However, despite Polaris’ commitment to employing the latest medical advancements to treat our patients, when it comes to laser spine surgery, our spine surgeons opt against it. We choose instead to perform minimally invasive spine surgery using a scalpel. Here are a few key reasons why.
Laser surgery is often thought to be the most minimally invasive option, targeting the precise point of incision and reducing blood loss. However, in the context of spine surgery, the research around the use of lasers is far less conclusive. There’s little evidence to suggest that laser spine surgery is more precise, less invasive, or less risky than conventional scalpel surgeries. In fact, if a laser isn’t properly used, it can do more harm than good. Until the body of research shows a clearly reduced amount of risk, we will continue to choose the surgical approach that has been proven both reliable and low-risk.
A little-known fact about laser surgery is that it doesn’t mean there will be no incision, nor that a scalpel won’t be needed. A scalpel must make the initial incision before the laser can be used to remove the soft tissue, and other surgical instruments must still be used to cut where lasers cannot. In reality, spine surgeons who use lasers still only utilize them for a small percentage of the total procedure.
“Many times, lasers are not even used in these procedures,” Dr. Christopher Tomaras, MD explains. “Lasers are used as a marketing tool, but very few neurosurgeons regard laser spine surgery as a viable alternative to conventional spine surgery techniques.”
Lasers can be great for small, straight incisions in certain types of surgery, but since a laser is a concentrated straight light beam, it is unable to bend around corners. Most spinal procedures require not only precision, but flexibility to avoid causing damage to nerves and other necessary tissues. Our surgeons are in much greater control with a scalpel than they are with a laser beam.
Dr. Max Steuer, MD, agrees. “Spine surgery isn’t Star Wars. It is precise and nuanced, not flashy. If lasers were helpful, we would be using them.”
If a surgeon has recommended laser spine surgery to you, we suggest you seek a second opinion. Minimally invasive spine surgery has proven to be more effective and reliable than laser surgery, especially when performed by someone with proven experience. To learn more, call Polaris Spine and Neurosurgery Center today at 404-256-2633.