Laser Spine Surgery…Why I don’t do it.

David Benglis, M.D.
I trained at one of the busiest minimally invasive and open surgical spine centers in the country (University of Miami).  Out of the thousands of neck and back procedures that we performed per year at this institution, lasers were only utilized in a small fraction of cases. 

They played a vital role in the treatment of large fat bearing congenital tumors encountered in the pediatric population.  We used these devices to “melt” the fat and make the tumor smaller to prevent tethering of nerve roots and ensure adequate dural closure preventing spinal fluid leaks.   

Laser spine surgery for the treatment of adult degenerative spinal problems is a multibillion dollar per year high-tech industry.  Many of these centers accept out of pocket cash payments only and some of those centers have recently received negative press regarding patient outcomes (see links below). Laser technology in adult spine surgery is unproven, however, having not been adopted by the majority of academic and private spine surgeons across the country. 

I view minimally invasive spine (MIS) surgery as a “state of mind”.  The debate between the laser versus the traditional surgeon’s scapel is only one very small debate in a MIS procedure.  I use the traditional scapel because it doesn’t generate heat that could potentially damage nerves and I can feel what I’m cutting.  With the laser this is not the case.  Finally there is so much more complexity to MIS surgery and many more steps involved a typical MIS procedure than just this topic. 

MIS surgeons access critical areas in the spine through the body’s natural fat and muscular planes.  They utilize navigation/precision guidance three-dimensional technology to go only to the places required to accomplish the goals of open surgery…”achieving the same results with less”.

If you are considering having laser spine surgery, we urge you to contact our office for a second opinion on alternative minimally invasive spine surgery techniques before undergoing a laser procedure.  

See these recent national articles:

Hulk Hogan Sues Laser Spine Institute
Blomberg Business Week Video About Laser Spine SUrgery Lawsuits
NPR News