Laser Disc Decompression

What is Laser Disc Decompression?

Percutaneous laser disc decompression (PLDD) is a method of relieving pressure on nerve roots in the spine, such as from herniated discs. Compressed nerve roots can cause pain, tingling, numbness, weakness and other symptoms in the back, neck, arms and legs. 

Instead of surgically removing the source of the compression, laser disc decompression works by using laser energy to destroy it. PLDD is safe, effective and minimally invasive, and for these reasons it is the procedure of choice at Edison Spine Center. 

What does it treat?

PLDD can treat the following conditions: 

Who is a candidate?

The procedure can be used for disc herniations to any vertebra except for those numbered T1 through T4. It is most often used to treat bulging or herniated discs and the resulting radiculopathy (radiating pain) in the lower back, also known as the lumbar spine.

Although the ideal patient is one who has an untreated disc herniation without disc fragments, PLDD can be and has been used to treat herniations after they have been unsuccessfully surgically treated. 

Most people who are treated with PLDD have:

  • Tried conservative treatment methods without success
  • Disc pain and radiculopathy lasting longer than three months
  • Leg pain worse than back pain
  • Intact disc (not fragmented)
  • No compression fractures

What are the advantages of Laser Disc Decompression?

PLDD can be an effective and attractive procedure for the right patient. One of its biggest advantages as a first procedure is that if it proves ineffective, open or minimally invasive surgery can still be performed at a later date. 

Other advantages include: 

  • No incisions
  • No scarring
  • No general anesthesia
  • Outpatient procedure – no hospital stay required
  • Short recovery time – one 2010 review found that the average time to return to work was one week
  • Low reoperation rate 

How is it performed?

PLDD is a minimally invasive procedure that does not require general anesthesia. The laser is delivered through a needle inserted into the disc and guided by computed tomography (CT) and fluoroscopy. 

CT fluoroscopy involves creating images with X-rays that are further enhanced by contrast dye. This allows physicians to see precisely where to place the needle used in PLDD. 

Unlike conventional discectomy, the protruding piece of disc compressing nerve roots is not surgically removed. Instead, once the needle is in place, laser energy is delivered through the needle and into the disc. 

This energy–in the form of heat–reduces the pressure inside the disc. The protruding piece of disc is therefore sucked back through the outer layer of the disc, relieving pressure on the nerve roots. 

Recovery

Laser disc decompression is an outpatient procedure, meaning the patient may leave the hospital or surgery center within 24 hours of surgery. General anesthesia is not used so the patient is never unconscious during the surgery. The area around the disc to be decompressed is numbed with local anesthesia. 

No back muscles need to be moved out of the way, and no incisions are necessary. Because of this, PLDD has a short recovery time. Pain relief is often immediate, and most patients can return to work within a week. 

If you are considering laser spine surgery, request an appointment with Edison Spine Centers. We can help determine if PLDD is the right procedure for you, discuss a treatment plan and put you on the road to recovery.