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Let’s Talk About Laser Disc Decompression Procedures


Laser disc procedures, or laser disc decompression, is a term that can encompass multiple specific procedures. Any laser disc decompression uses laser assistance to remove damaged spinal disc material that is causing nerve compression and disc pain. These symptoms can be a source of severe disruption of quality of life and mobility, making even simple daily tasks difficult or even impossible. 

Like other spine procedures, the decision to undergo any type of laser disc decompression is one that should be made on as informed a basis as possible. At USA Spine Care, we’re dedicated to patient education and are sharing the following guide to help you learn more about your treatment options. If you have any questions about the procedures we perform and how we can help you find relief, please contact us today.  

What is laser disc decompression?

As stated above, laser disc decompression is a general term that can describe multiple types of minimally invasive spine procedures. One type is a percutaneous laser disc decompression (PLDD). This involves inserting a hollow needle into the affected disc area and guiding the surgical laser through it using an x-ray scope or other visualization device. The surgeon will then use the laser to burn away displaced or herniated disc tissue that is causing nerve compression and disc pain. 

Laser disc decompression can also describe a minimally invasive discectomy that uses laser assistance to decompress spinal nerves caused by a bulging disc, herniated disc, slipped disc or other condition. In this type of procedure, the surgeon uses muscle sparing techniques that enable a very small incision to access the affected disc. 

One important distinction is that laser disc surgery is sometimes used as a general term for laser spine surgery. However, minimally invasive procedures do not necessarily require a laser to be minimally invasive, although they are often used. 

What symptoms and conditions does laser disc decompression treat?

Aging and injured spinal discs can cause conditions that displace disc material and lead to narrowing in the spinal column. The discs in the spine help to cushion the vertebrae and allow for bending and flexibility. Over time, they can wear out and lose elasticity, leading to a number of conditions that cause painful nerve compression. These conditions include:

  • Bulging discs When the disc bulges outside of its normal perimeter in the spinal column.
  • Herniated discs — When softer inner disc material begins to push out of a crack or tear in the tougher outer layer.
  • Slipped discs — A commonly used nonmedical term that can either describe herniated discs, or spondylolisthesis, where a vertebra and disc begins to slip out over the body beneath it. 
  • Degenerative disc disease — The age-related process of disc breakdown, which can cause loss of disc height, as well as bulges and herniations. 

These conditions are not necessarily painful by themselves, with symptoms usually developing as a result of nerve compression. Because the spinal column is so tightly built, the large volume of nervous tissue that travels through it can easily be compressed by displaced spinal anatomy, including disc tissue. This results in the following symptoms:

  • Localized neck or back pain 
  • Shooting pain into the extremities 
  • Tingling or numbness 
  • Muscle weakness in the upper or lower extremities

Additionally, certain disc conditions can cause localized disc pain if herniated disc material irritates the small nerve endings on the disc itself. 

When to consider any form of spine surgery

Any type of spine procedure, including laser disc decompression, is typically seen as a last resort treatment option to be considered in cases where conservative therapies have not effectively relieved symptoms. Upon diagnosis of a disc condition causing nerve compression and/or disc pain, doctors will usually first recommend the following treatment options first:

  • Periods of rest 
  • Alternating hot and cold compression therapy
  • Over-the-counter medication 
  • Epidural steroid injections
  • Physical therapy 

If weeks or months go by without a noticeable reduction in symptoms and pain is interfering with quality of life, doctors may recommend surgery to relieve disc compression. 

Learn more about minimally invasive disc decompression surgery at USA Spine Care

At USA Spine Care, our caring and dedicated multidisciplinary team can help patients at any stage of their treatment journey. From physical therapy and injections to minimally invasive outpatient spine surgery, including disc decompression procedures, we can help you create a personalized care plan at our state-of-the-art facilities to reach your treatment goals. We’d be happy to answer any questions you have about laser disc decompression procedures when you contact us today

Laser Disc Decompression Quick Answers

What is laser disc decompression?

Laser disc decompression refers to a range of minimally invasive procedures that use laser assistance to decompress a pinched nerve in the spine. One common type of procedure is a percutaneous laser disc decompression, or PLDD, although the term can also refer to a minimally invasive discectomy that uses laser assistance. The high heat of a laser can help precisely remove tissue that is narrowing the spinal column and putting pressure on a nerve. 

Are all minimally invasive disc procedures laser procedures?

Not all forms of minimally invasive spine surgery to treat disc-related nerve compression involve laser assistance. Surgeons can use a number of microsurgical tools to remove displaced spinal anatomy, including a scalpel. Minimally invasive spine surgery uses muscle-sparing techniques that require a very small incision to access the spine and do not necessarily need a laser. 

Does laser disc decompression help a herniated disc?

Laser disc decompression procedures can treat a herniated disc by burning away herniated disc material that is compressing or irritating spinal nerves. Whether the procedure is performed percutaneously with a needle or with a surgical incision and muscle-sparing techniques, the goal is for the surgeon to access the spine and remove herniated disc material with a laser. 

Is laser disc decompression outpatient?

Laser disc decompression is typically performed on an outpatient basis. With most procedures, patients can be up and walking within hours. Once stabilized, patients will be given detailed instructions for recovery. 

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