Category: Spine Surgery | Author: Stefano Sinicropi | Date: November 22, 2016
Laser surgery has become more popular in the operating room, helping doctors remove tissue with ease and precision. However, since the technique is more aimed at addressing damaged tissue, it’s not the most common device used during spine surgery. That being said, some surgeons rely on laser assistance during a minimally invasive or open spinal operation. Today, we take a look at some of the risks involved during laser spine surgery.
Infections are a risk during all surgeries, because the opening of a wound allows for bacteria to get in and cause problems. The likelihood of infection is decreased when a laser is used in conjunction with a minimally invasive option compared to an open operation, because the minimally invasive opening is smaller. If the laser operation can only be performed using an open technique, there’s a slightly higher risk of infection.
Spine surgeons need to be precise with every stroke of the scalpel to ensure only the proper structures are addressed, and although they undergo significant training with the laser devices prior to using them on a patient, there’s always the possibility the laser is misguided or mismanaged. This could happen with a scalpel all the same, but most surgeons are more comfortable with old school medical instruments. Additionally, although lasers are routinely checked for accuracy, there’s the possibility that the laser could deviate from the intended path if it is not properly calibrated.
There’s also the possibility that surgery will not fully address the problem in your spine. Laser surgery can help cut through damaged tissue or nerves, but surgical lasers do not cut through bone, so if the problem is housed in your vertebrae or spinal column, lasers may not completely correct the problem. However, a laser can be used in conjunction with other surgical tools to address all injured areas of the spine.
Lasers cut through structures and soft tissues using concentrated heat, and while they need to be extremely precise during an operation, that heat can spill over onto nearby structures during an operation. This can lead to nerve damage, which can causes incontinence and numbness. Because a scalpel doesn’t carry this risk, many spine surgeons opt to perform surgery with common surgical tools instead of with tools and a laser.