Laser Spine Institute’s frequently asked questions were designed for people like you — people who want relief from chronic neck or back pain but still have a list of questions to ask before back surgery. So if you’re just beginning your journey, or are well on your way, we hope this information gives you the answers you need to move from a life a pain to the life you love.
How does minimally invasive spine surgery compare to traditional open back surgery?
Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive spine procedures are ideal for those patients seeking minimal downtime, an outpatient setting, a less than 1-inch incision and — most of all — maximum results.Advantages of Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive spine surgery include:
- No lengthy recovery^
- 99% patient recommendation rate^
- Outpatient procedure
- Board-certified surgeons+
- Less than 1-inch incision
Are there any risks associated with your minimally invasive spine procedures?
Laser Spine Institute’s outpatient setting minimizes your risk of infections and complications. And these low infection and complication rates are just two of the reasons more than 75,000 patients have trusted us with their care. Our minimally invasive procedures are a safer and effective alternative to traditional open back procedures.^
- Infection rate of 0.49 percent compared to other providers’ infection rates of up to 19 percent
- Complication rate of 3 percent compared to other providers’ complication rates at 16.4 percent
What types of anesthesia are used for these spine procedures?
Nearly every surgery performed at Laser Spine Institute uses a combination of local anesthesia (numbing medicine) and intravenous sedation (pain medication, sedatives). These are administered by our anesthesia team which consists of skilled anesthesiologists and certified registered nurse anesthetists who work together to ensure your safety and comfort throughout surgery. After the procedure, patients are taken to the recovery area, where they’ll remain for 60 to 90 minutes prior to being discharged from the facility.
Can you treat my condition?
Before we know if our procedures can help treat your specific condition, we need to know what spine conditions you have. This can be determined once we have reviewed your MRI report. Here are some of the most common conditions we provide relief from:
- Pinched Nerve
- Bulging/herniated disc
- Spinal stenosis
- Arthritis of the spine
- Other chronic conditions
To find out about the conditions we treat, click here.
Which medications should I stop taking prior to my minimally invasive spine procedure at Laser Spine Institute?
At Laser Spine Institute, your safety is our priority. That’s why one of our caring Spine Care Schedulers will reach out to you to review the list of prescription and over-the-counter medications you must stop taking five days before your surgery. They will also discuss which blood thinning medications you need to continue taking unless we receive written approval to stop them from your prescribing physician. You can download copies of both lists here.
How is the laminotomy procedure different from a laminectomy?
A laminotomy is one of the more common decompression procedures our board-certified surgeons+ perform. This surgery is done to relieve pressure on the spinal cord compressed by spinal stenosis, which involves a narrowing within the openings of the spine. To open up the spinal canal, we use a minimally invasive approach for laminotomies. We do not, however, perform the laminectomy procedure. The difference between the two surgeries is a laminotomy removes only part of the lamina whereas a laminectomy removes the entire lamina.
How and when is the laser used?
The word “laser” is part of our name, but the majority of the procedures our board-certified surgeons+ perform are done so with other surgical tools. The most common procedure the laser is used for is facet thermal ablation. Performed with a very small incision, the laser helps relieve pain caused by arthritis in the facet joints. Facet thermal ablation is most often done in conjunction with a minimally invasive decompression.
What do I have to do to find out if I’m a candidate for Laser Spine Institute procedures?
Finding out if you’re a candidate for one of Laser Spine Institute’s minimally invasive spine procedures is simple. Just send us your most recent MRI or CT images and the report that goes with it, and we’ll let you know if we can treat your condition in two business days. If you live near a Laser Spine Institute surgery center, you can schedule an in-person consultation and learn if we can treat your condition during this appointment with one of our physicians. To find out more about our no-obligation MRI review or to schedule a consultation at Laser Spine Institute, click here.
What is the experience level of your surgeons?
Experience — there’s no substitute for it. That’s why we employ a dedicated team of anesthesiologists, physicians and board-certified surgeons+ who combine their talents to develop a personalized plan of care that puts you on the path to relief. Our skilled surgeons are fellowship trained in our minimally invasive spine procedures, giving them the exclusive skill set to perform hundreds of surgeries each year. At Laser Spine Institute, we’re the leader in minimally invasive spine surgery for a reason. We focus on treating the spine and only the spine, performing more minimally invasive procedures each month than any other spine surgery center in the nation.^
If I’m traveling to Laser Spine Institute from out of town, how long will I need to stay in your area?
From the time you arrive at our state-of-the-art facility, until the time you head home, the typical patient journey is four to five days. This includes two full days of clinical evaluations and diagnostic testing, your surgery day and your postoperative meeting. For a look at Laser Spine Institute’s streamlined patient journey, click here.
Why am I required to bring someone with me when I have surgery at Laser Spine Institute?
To ensure your safety, Laser Spine Institute requires all patients to be accompanied by someone who is at least 18 years of age and competent to attend testing, surgical and postoperative appointments with you. Your Care Partner will join you in the recovery room after surgery, get preoperative instructions for you and help you for the first 24 hours after your procedure. Please select someone who is responsible and both willing and able assist you during this important time. To learn more about what a Care Partner needs to know, click here.
What are my limitations after minimally invasive spine surgery?
The days and weeks after surgery can be some of the most crucial to your recovery. That’s why we ask you to slow down and take it easy, stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and take all medications as directed. It’s important to limit activity (bending, lifting, twisting) that applies added weight to the spine.
We also ask that you follow these recovery guidelines:
- Wear your brace for the time recommended by your surgeon for your surgery type.
- Bend from your hips if you’ve had a lumbar procedure. DO NOT bend from your spine.
- DO NOT reach overhead if you’ve had a cervical procedure. Ask for assistance.
- Schedule an appointment with your local Laser Spine Institute clinic or your primary care provider to have your incision checked two weeks after your surgery.
To make sure you stay the course, we’ll be checking in with you two, six and 12 weeks after surgery to see how you’re feeling and help guide you a successful recovery. Should you need assistance during your recovery, we encourage you to call our SPINE LINE and speak with a nurse. We’re here 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide answers.
Will I need physical therapy after surgery?
Because everyone heals at a unique pace, some patients may require physical therapy to help them recover after surgery. Laser Spine Institute’s Patient Services Department is committed to helping you during this part of your journey. If you feel you need physical therapy, please call the SPINE LINE and request a prescription for physical therapy.
What are the lifting/physical activity restrictions?
We recommend lifting no more than 10 to 15 pounds for at least four weeks after surgery. And because each patient heals at his or her own rate, we recommend a gradual return to normal activities to allow maximum healing. You can also gradually increase your activity level after two weeks based on how you feel, continuing this gradual progress for four to six weeks after surgery. If you’ve had a fusion procedure, it may be six weeks or more. And we ask that during this time of recovery, you avoid any prolonged postures and vary your activities and positions. View our Postoperative Recovery Guide for minimally invasive decompression or minimally invasive stabilization.
How soon after surgery can I drive?
Most patients can drive 24 hours after surgery. Patients undergoing a minimally invasive stabilization procedure may not drive for up to two weeks after surgery. Patients must not drive while taking pain medications or muscle relaxers. If riding long distances, we ask that you stop every hour to stretch and walk.
When can I return to work?
Whether your job involves light desk duty, or is more physical in nature, Laser Spine Institute sets realistic return to work and daily activity expectations. We base this on outcomes from patients with similar types of work roles. Depending on your job description and individual recovery, we recommend you take at least two weeks off work after your surgery. Some patients may need six to 12 weeks.
- 88 percent of patients return to daily activities within three months
- 83 percent of patients return to work with three months
Will my insurance cover this procedure?
Laser Spine Institute works with many insurance companies to provide our patients with a cost-effective way to find relief. Each individual insurance policy provides varying levels of coverage. To discuss your specific insurance coverage, we encourage you to call your dedicated Spine Care Consultant.
Do you work with Medicare?
Laser Spine Institute’s services are partially covered by Medicare and Medicare replacement plans. What this means is we bill our services in two portions: professional fees and facility fees. Medicare will only cover the costs associated with our professional fees (for doctors, medical professionals and the procedure you received). Laser Spine Institute will bill Medicare for these costs.
Because Laser Spine Institute’s ambulatory surgery center facility fees are not covered by Medicare, we cannot bill that portion of the cost through Medicare. To find out more about your specific plan, or learn about financing options for back surgery, we encourage you to talk with a dedicated Spine Care Consultant.
Will you verify my benefits and help me file my insurance?
Yes. Laser Spine Institute will verify your benefits before you arrive, including coinsurance, deductibles, out-of-pocket maximums, policy limitations or precertifications, as provided by your insurance policy. While some of our services require precertification, we will attempt to authorize your surgery with your insurance carrier. We will also file your claims on your behalf for most insurance carriers. Because insurance for spinal surgery can differ from provider to provider, we invite you to speak with us so we can help you find the lasting relief you deserve.
Is there an up-front cost for your procedures?
Depending on your insurance plan, a payment may be due at the time of surgery. This amount will vary depending on your specific coverage and deductible. This time of service payment will be applied toward your patient responsibility. And this remaining balance will reflect any deductible, coinsurance or copayment amounts that exceed the money paid up front.
Is outpatient surgery less expensive than a traditional open neck or back surgery?
Your time is valuable. That’s why when you have questions to ask before spinal surgery, they often focus on two things — how long your recovery process will take and how many days you’ll be required to stay in a hospital. Laser Spine Institute’s outpatient procedures use a less than 1-inch incision, which means less downtime and more time to get back to the life you love. Because of the larger incision, the multiple day stay in the hospital and the length of time it takes to recover from traditional open back surgery, these costs can add up to a large hospital bill and smaller paychecks from time off work.
Do you offer financing options for my surgical procedure?
To help our patients afford the minimally invasive surgery they need, Laser Spine Institute is pleased to partner with CareCredit. This flexible financing option offers patients who qualify much more than a convenient payment plan. In fact, it allows them the opportunity to find relief from the chronic neck and back pain they’ve been suffering from.
CareCredit, is one of the largest health and wellness credit cards in the nation with more than 9 million cardholders. And it’s popular with our patients looking for an easy way to finance their surgery.
- Up to 24 months at 0% deferred interest
- Up to five years at a fixed interest rate
- No penalty for early payments
- Accepted nationwide for most medical services
- Quick application process
- Allows for co-applicants
Supplemental options are available to those who do not qualify. To learn more about CareCredit, call your Spine Care Consultant.