Laser spine surgery isn't worth the hype, Dr. Kaixuan Liu says

Angie Stewart -   Print  |

Lasers may not live up to the hype for treating spinal disorders that cause chronic back pain, according to spine surgeon Kaixuan Liu, MD, PhD.

Dr. Liu serves as medical director of the Atlantic Spine Center, which has multiple locations in New York and New Jersey.

Four thoughts he shared in a Jan. 28 press release:

1. While lasers produce concentrated heat to help surgeons easily slice through tissues and structures, laser spine surgery isn't a silver bullet for treating spinal stenosis or herniated and ruptured spinal discs, Dr. Liu said.

"A spillover of heat can easily damage nearby nerves and other areas of the spine," he explained.

2. Dr. Liu compared laser spine surgery to endoscopic spine surgery, saying the former has limited applications. For instance, the FDA has approved laser use for percutaneous disc decompression, a procedure Dr. Liu said is usually performed in cases that would otherwise resolve themselves.

3. There's also insufficient evidence to prove lasers' efficacy, according to Dr. Liu. He cited a September 2019 study that said existing clinical research hasn't shown lasers reduced inflammation and degeneration.

4. Burrs, cutters and graspers may be more appropriate for spine surgery, depending on the circumstances, Dr. Liu said.

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