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Laser Spine Surgery: Medical Magic Or Marketing Ploy?

When it comes to spine and back surgery, a name doesn't always tell the whole story.

Dr. Scott Simon, a neurosurgeon with Orthopaedic and Neurosurgery Specialists.

Dr. Scott Simon, a neurosurgeon with Orthopaedic and Neurosurgery Specialists.

Photo Credit: ONS

Many people incorrectly believe that a laser is the main surgical tool used in laser spine surgery and that it eliminates the need for a surgical incision. However, that couldn’t be further from the truth.

According to Dr. Scott Simon, a neurosurgeon with Orthopaedic and Neurosurgery Specialists, the use of a laser in spine surgery is often more of a marketing gimmick than surgical innovation. “The laser is only used to remove the soft tissue over the spine after a small incision has been made,” said Simon. “Using a laser actually creates an unnecessary step to the surgery.” If soft tissue needs to be removed from the spine, there are more effective techniques for surgeons to use.

Lasers are not a new technology. They have been in use since 1973. However, they have not been widely adopted as a tool in spinal surgery. “Most neurosurgeons do not use or recommend the use of lasers for spine surgery because there are no clear benefits and there are other well-established and documented studies proving the effectiveness of more modern surgical techniques,” said Simon. That's why he and other ONS neurosurgeons do not use or recommend laser spine surgery.

In practice, laser surgery is much less precise than other modern surgical tools, as most issues can easily be taken care of through minimally invasive spine surgery. “The outcomes are excellent and patients often go home the same day as their procedure,” said Simon.

The majority of spine conditions can be effectively treated without surgery altogether. When surgery is recommended, Simon advises patients to carefully research the qualifications of the neurosurgeon and surgical facility. “Minimally invasive spine surgery, fusionless spine surgery and outpatient spine surgery are often advertised as the latest advances in spine care, when in fact the specialists at ONS and elsewhere have been performing these procedures for nearly 20 years,” he said.

ONS has offices in Greenwich and Stamford, Conn. and in Harrison, N.Y. Learn more about the spine physicians or schedule a consultation at ONS by clicking here.