Background Minimally invasive laminectomy is a very effective surgical method for treating lumbar stenosis. However, this technique can be technically difficult, especially in patients suffering from severe stenosis. The contralateral decompression from a unilateral approach can result in durotomy during removal of the hypertrophied ligamentum flavum. This complication can be difficult to treat through a small working channel. Objective To detail our group's operative experience with the CO2 laser and discuss our results and previous studies in the literature reporting results. Methods The CO2 laser (Omniguide, Boston, MA) was investigated in the surgical ablation of the contralateral ligamentum flavum during minimally invasive laminectomies. Forty levels have been investigated thus far. The amount of voltage needed to adequately desiccate and remove the ligamentum flavum safely as well as the effectiveness of this technique were investigated. Results The contralateral ligamentum flavum could be removed effectively using the 9 to 11 watt continuous wavelength (10,600 nanometer) power setting on the CO2 laser. Shrinkage of the contralateral ligamentum flavum facilitated its removal using a number 2 Kerrison Punch. No durotomies occurred, and the use of the laser did not significantly lengthen operative times. Conclusions The CO2 laser appears to be a useful tool in the armamentarium of instruments available to the minimally invasive spine surgeon and may help to reduce the incidence of durotomies when performing minimally invasive laminectomies.
Keywords: co2 laser; laminectomy; minimally-invasive; spinal stenosis; spine surgery.