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What is Laser Spine Surgery?

Laser spine surgery refers to a form of back surgery. It varies from other types of spine surgery, such as the open approach or traditional back surgery and minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS). Laser spine surgery makes use of a laser to lacerate or sever the structures closely related to the spine in order to alleviate nerve compression and relieve pain. 

This surgery involves a minimally invasive surgical procedure, where the surgeon uses a small incision to reach the structures of the spine. Unlike open back surgery that requires large incisions in the back to reach the spine, this procedure provides less scarring and injury to nearby structures such as nerves, arteries, veins and muscles. The use of a laser beam for making incisions, instead of traditional surgical tools, differentiates laser spine surgery from other minimally invasive procedures. However, the surgeon creates the first incision with a regular scalpel.

Difference between Laser spine surgery and other back surgeries

Few types of back surgery come to mind other than laser spine surgery, such as the traditional or open approach and minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS). One can realize the difference between these procedures as explained below:

  • Traditional back surgery

During traditional back surgery, the surgeon makes a long incision in the back. Then, the surgeon moves muscles and other tissue away in order to access the affected area of the spine. This causes a longer hospital stay and recovery time, and may cause damage of tissues.

  • Minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS)

MISS makes use of a smaller incision than traditional surgery. The surgeon uses a special tool referred to as the tubular retractor, to create a small opening in order to access the surgical site. This allows the surgeon to place various specialized tools into the opening during surgery. Due to the less invasive nature, MISS can lead to less pain and a faster recovery.

  • Laser spine surgery

In laser spine surgery, the surgeon makes use of a laser to remove portions of tissue located around the spine and nerves of the back. Unlike the other types of spine surgery, it may only prove appropriate for very specific conditions, such as nerve compression causing pain.

Individuals usually mistake laser spine surgery for MISS, or often believe these surgeries share the same procedures. To further complicate this, MISS may sometimes, but not always, use lasers.

Procedure for laser spine surgery

The surgeon will request imaging tests (such as X-rays, CT scans, or MRIs) of the spine to determine the location of the nerve root compression and underlying cause. Laser spine surgery can also function for nerve ablation, which involves burning and destroying the nerve fibers sending chronic pain signals to the brain. 

Patients will receive pre-op instructions on what to do and what not to do in the days and hours leading up to the surgery. Specialists will advise patients to remain physically active, consume a healthy diet, and avoid smoking and/or drinking before the surgical procedure to ensure proper healing and quick recovery. Patients will also need to avoid certain medications that may cause excessive bleeding or counteract the anesthesia used during the procedure. Patients must also inform the surgeon of all forms of medications and supplements to ensure the safety of the patients.

For the procedure, the medical team will place an IV to administer fluids and medications. Once anesthesia kicks in and the patient remains unconscious, the surgeon will sterilize the skin around the spine, making an incision less than inch to reach the affected nerve roots. After locating the problematic disc, the surgeon will insert a small laser beam into the incision to cut through the disc responsible for the compression. After removing the disc, the medical team will close the area of incision. Health care providers monitor the patient after the surgery. With no signs of complications, the patient can leave as soon as the anesthesia’s effects wear off.


After laser spine surgery, patients can return to work after a few days, but complete recovery may take up to two to three months. The procedure works for managing spine-related conditions such as spinal cord tumors, spinal stenosis and herniated discs.



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