Lasers: For Star Wars Only

After the sudden closure of the Laser Spine Institute, based in Tampa, Florida, many people are now asking, “Was laser spine surgery just a fad? Just a bunch of hype?”

The answer, unfortunately, appears to be yes.

While the idea of lasers, with its sci-fi trappings and once-futuristic associations, has captured people’s imaginations in the past, the reality is that lasers have little place in precision spine surgery, especially when surgery is done using a minimally invasive approach. They are, in fact, almost never used.

Think of it this way: lasers are a straight beam of light. If the surgeon needs to navigate around a portion of the patient’s anatomy with the endoscope to find the lesion, the laser beam won’t be able to bend to target that lesion. In addition, lasers generate heat and sometimes even gas bubbles, both of which could damage nearby nerves and tissues. Furthermore, laser surgical approaches do not allow for removal of large amounts of disc material, and are not capable of handling such surgical complications as bleeding or leakage of cerebrospinal fluid.

Experts are now saying the big new excitement in spine advances is robotic navigation and robotic assistance during surgery. The prestigious medical journal “Spine,” found in a 2018 study that robotic spine surgery tended to result in patients being discharged more quickly after surgery. The Chief Medical Editor for “Spine Surgery Today,” John C. Liu, stated “robotics can essentially unite the improved precision and surgical dexterity of MIS [Minimally Invasive Surgery] and spine navigation and advance it in such a way that it helps surgeons tackle complex disease processes or challenging spinal regions beyond what is now possible.”

As we make decisions about how to use technology to care for patients, we have to be sure to keep our patients’ interests front and center, and not go out for the craziest and most “cool” looking thing.
So, whether you actually need spine surgery (which is rare) or if you just need help figuring out what’s going on with your neck or your back, we are here to help you get back to doing what you love and feeling your best.

If you are looking for help with your spine issues, please call us for an evaluation at 404-256-2633, or email us at newpatients@polarisspine.com.

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