Laser Endoscopic Spinal Surgery

Endoscopic spine surgery is a revolutionary minimally invasive procedure that effectively treats disc herniations, spinal stenosis, bone spurs, slipped vertebrae, and spinal joint arthritis. Using only local anesthesia, micro-instruments and laser technology, this no fusion procedure is clearly very different from standard open surgery.

Advantages of Laser Endoscopic Spinal Surgery (LESS):

  • Outpatient procedure
  • No general anesthesia
  • Small incision covered with Band-Aids
  • Uses state-of-the-art endoscope combined with laser and micro-instrument techniques

The Procedure

Every patient is different. But here is a general look at how the surgery works.

Surgical Approach:

    • The doctor administers local anesthesia to the patient, who remains awake.
    • The surgeon makes a tiny incision, usually less than 10 mm.
    • The surgeon reaches gently works slender surgical tubes called tubular retractors between the muscles to reach the targeted area. These tubes are the pathway for the micro-instruments used to perform the surgery. They’re called retractors because they move soft tissue and muscle out of the way, protecting the muscles, arteries and nerves surrounding the spine.

Removal Process:

    • The surgical team takes an x-ray to confirm that they’re at the correct level of the spinal segment.
    • Using a high resolution endoscope, the surgeon can see the spine on a monitor. The surgeon carefully removes only the damaged part of the spine. The supporting spinal structure is not affected.
    • The surgeon directs a laser through the endoscope to the surgical area to shrink and cut tissues as well as coagulate and control bleeding.
    • The limited amount of muscle transection or dissection during this surgery helps to minimize post-operative pain.

Final Steps:

    • Upon completion of the surgery, the doctor slowly extracts the instruments and surgical tubes, allowing the muscles to move back into place.
    • Occasionally, the incision needs a stitch or two.
    • The nurse applies a small Band-Aid over the tiny incision.

After Surgery
Recovery from laser endoscopic spine surgery depends on the physical condition of the patient, the extent of the diseases, and the complexity of the surgery. However, most patients are discharged the same day. As with most surgeries, it is normal for patients to feel some initial pain, especially at the incision site. Usually we encourage patients to get up and move around within a few hours after surgery. Most patients will benefit from a postoperative exercise program or supervised physical therapy. We’re here to help patients develop a low-impact exercise program tailored to their needs, both for recovery from surgery and to promote a pain-free future.

Possible Risks/Complications
Since patients are all different, risks and complications can vary. This is a very technical procedure. Only highly trained surgeons with specialized training—such as those at the Spine Institute of San Diego—should perform this type of surgery.