Lasers in Spine Surgery

Laser spine surgery has been a focus of intense interest in the lay press and among patients. On the Internet, a host of purported benefits to laser surgery exists. Lasers have long been used in pain management procedures such as percutaneous diskectomy. However, a few published articles are available on lasers in conventional spine surgery. From our review of the literature, the purported advantages of lasers, such as reduced inflammation and degeneration, are not been supported by preclinical research. The available clinical studies do not show a notable advantage for laser surgery. Moreover, the low enrollment, nonblinded, retrospective studies that are available are heavily subject to bias. The documented advantages of laser spine surgery described in the research studies are not consistent with the public’s impression of its purported benefits. Furthermore, laser-specific complications are present about which patients should be informed. On the basis of the current research, we conclude that lasers add distinct potential complications without any corresponding clinical benefit. Because of the public interest, we feel that this is an important topic for the general orthopaedic community.