Thanks to technological and medical advances, physicians are now able to treat a number of common back and neck conditions with laser spine surgery, which is often less painful and heals more quickly than traditional open spine surgery.
Laser spine surgery, or minimally invasive spine surgery (MISS), is performed without making a long 5- to 6-inch incision on your back, which used to be commonplace in back surgery. The procedure is still generally reserved as a last result, though, when other nonsurgical treatments, such as physical therapy and epidural injections, have not alleviated pain and discomfort in your back or neck, according to the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons.
If your doctor can pinpoint the precise location or source of your pain, then he or she can use a minimally invasive laser technique to address the issue. During the surgery, your doctor will access your spine by making small incisions using specialized instruments. One of laser spine surgery's primary benefits is that it can be performed as an outpatient procedure, without a lengthy hospital stay.
What Conditions Can Be Treated?
MISS using a laser may be the right answer for a number of degenerative and other issues affecting your neck or back and causing you pain. Here are five common conditions that can be treated with a minimally invasive procedure:
1. Spinal Cord Tumors
Also called an intradural tumor, a spinal cord tumor is a growth that develops within the bones of your spine or within your spinal canal, according to the Mayo Clinic. They can be classified as one of three different types of tumors, based on where they occur in relation to your spinal cord's protective membranes or if they have metastasized from other areas of your body to the vertebrae.
2. Pinched Nerve
Pinched nerves can occur anywhere in your body when nerves receive too much pressure from surrounding tissues, including tendons, muscles, cartilage and bones. The pressure disrupts the nerve's functions, causing numbness, pain or tingling.
3. Herniated Disc
Also called slipped or ruptured disks, herniated discs are very common conditions that can occur when the soft, gel-like nucleus of a spinal disc pushes through a tear or rupture in the annulus, or the hard outer layer, into the spinal canal. When the inner substance of the disc spills, it can cause debilitating pain. Herniated discs are most common in the lower back.
4. Spinal Stenosis
Spinal stenosis, which is most common in the neck or lower back, is when the spaces within your spine narrow, putting pressure on the nerves throughout your spine. The two main types of spinal stenosis are cervical stenosis, which occurs in the spine within your neck, and lumbar stenosis, which occurs in the spine in your lower back.
Sciatica is a condition often caused by a herniated disc, spinal stenosis or a bone spur on the spine. When these spinal conditions occur, they can put pressure on your sciatic nerve and lead to sharp, shooting pain along that nerve, which runs from your lower back through your hips and buttocks and down the back of your thigh.
What Are the Benefits of Laser Spine Surgery?
With laser spine surgery, there is less risk of infection, blood loss, and potential injury to your back muscles and soft tissue than with traditional open surgery. Because the procedure is less invasive, your hospital stay and recovery time in general should be shorter. Additionally, surgeons are continually evolving the techniques used for minimally invasive spine surgery to treat patients with more accuracy and fewer complications.
To find out if your back or neck pain could be treated by laser spine surgery, contact Premier Spine Institute. Dr. Ngu is practiced in using minimally invasive techniques to address a variety of conditions that can cause you discomfort.