Introduction to Laser Surgery for Hemorrhoids
Laser surgery for hemorrhoids originally came out with a huge surge.
The idea for this sort of surgery is to remove hemorrhoids with lasers instead of scalpels.
Proponents claimed that hemorrhoid laser surgery would cost less in healing time, pain, and scarring. Many also claimed it would be less risky. Of course, research doctors immediately went into full swing to prove or deny these claims.
What they’ve found is that there is no benefit to getting treatment of hemorrhoid laser surgery over scalpel surgery.
The healing time, pain level, scarring and risks stay about the same either way.
Because of the expense of the equipment involved, hemorrhoids laser surgery isn’t usually recommended. So, why would anyone want to risk laser surgery in the first place?
Well, if you have a highly qualified hemorrhoids laser surgeon in your area instead of an equally well qualified scalpel surgeon, you want to go with the laser surgeon.
Surgeons trained to use a particular set of tools can’t change those tools at the drop of a hat. A laser surgeon doesn’t have the hands on experience of using a scalpel, and a scalpel surgeon hasn’t been trained on the complex equipment that laser surgeons use.
Hemorrhoids laser surgery isn’t more dangerous than scalpel surgery.
The risks, pain and healing are about equal both ways. Each has some unique risks inherent to the tool used.
Scalpels can accidentally cut something they’re not supposed to and lasers can cause deep tissue burns if poorly aimed.
The inherent risk really does come down to the doctor’s qualifications.
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What to do Before Hemorrhoids Laser Surgery
Before you go getting hemorrhoids laser surgery you need to make sure that surgery is really your best option.
We’re talking about a procedure that can have some truly terrible long term health effects, so if you’re not completely sure, get a second opinion.
Your doctor or hemorrhoids doctor ought to be willing to talk with you at length regarding surgical procedures of this magnitude. He or she should be willing to explain all risks involved, the chances of suffering those risks, the details of the procedure and exactly why you need it.
Make sure your health insurance will cover laser surgery before committing to the procedure. If you’re not covered, you could find yourself with a very large bill at the end. The easiest way to make sure of this is to take your insurance information to the surgeon’s office well before your surgery. The office assistants can check to make sure your plan covers their specific procedure. This is tricky to do yourself, you often have to be familiar with “insurance speak” first. If you don’t know what an ICD-9 is already, enlist the office staff’s help.
By the way, just as a side note, an ICD-9 is a numerical code that the health industry uses to define specific disorders. External hemorrhoids, internal hemorrhoids, prolapsed hemorrhoids and thrombosed hemorrhoids all have different ICD-9 codes. A health insurance company can decide what treatments they’re willing to authorize for each different code. That’s why it can be tricky, to say the least.
Pick a hemorrhoids laser surgeon you’re completely comfortable with.
The best way to do this is to consult with your family doctor. General practitioners often know many of the doctors in their local area and can help you pick a surgeon who has excellent qualifications and with whom you’ll get along well.
If your general practitioner doesn’t know of a well-qualified surgeon who can do hemorrhoids laser surgery in your area, you may want to ask a specialist.
Some general practitioners will send patients with severe hemorrhoids to a proctologist before a surgeon. The reason is because a proctologist specializes in the anorectal canal and can often make a more accurate diagnosis.
If you’ve been seeing a proctologist you like and trust, he or she will know the best hemorrhoids surgeons in the area.
Once you’ve chosen a doctor to remove your hemorrhoids with laser surgery, make an appointment just to talk. You want a surgeon who is willing to discuss the procedure with you in entirety. You also want to make sure this is a person you can trust. After all, he or she will be aiming scalpels of light at one of your most sensitive areas.
Laser surgery isn’t usually taught at medical school.
The doctors who specialize in it have taken private instruction in how to use the laser properly.
Therefore, a degree from a highly respected medical school does not guarantee a surgeon’s competence with laser surgery. It does guarantee their overall medical competence, which is always a plus, but a laser surgeon must have good laser surgery training and experience in the technique as well.
Laser surgeons also should be able to tell you how many procedures they’ve done, both successful and unsuccessful. They may not be able to give references you can call due to medical privacy laws, but they should give you statistics.
Laser surgery can temporarily or permanently discolor the skin of people with high melanin, including people of African, Asian and Hispanic descent. If you descend from one of these ethnic groups, check with the surgeon to make sure he’s performed the technique on others of your ethnicity first.
Know the Hemorrhoids Laser Surgery Procedures
There are three types of laser used in laser surgery.
Only two types can be used for hemorrhoids laser surgery – the carbon dioxide (CO2) laser and the neodymium:yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Nd:YAG) laser.
The CO2 laser converts light energy to heat strong enough to cut tissue and coagulate blood vessels.
The Nd:YAG laser basically does the same thing, but it penetrates tissue much more deeply and clots blood faster than any other laser.
The third kind of laser, based on argon, is only used for eye disorders, superficial skin problems, and light-based therapy for some tumors.
Before getting hemorrhoids laser surgery, a doctor must do a detailed medical workup and history.
This history should include your general health condition, any and all current or past health problems, and your responses to other procedures in the past.
You and your surgeon should also make sure you’re on the same page regarding the exact outcome.
Obviously, you want the hemorrhoid gone, but how much scarring and pain should you expect? How quickly will you recover? What are the chances that the hemorrhoid will come back?
For hemorrhoid laser surgery, you’ll probably be put on a restricted diet for a little while prior to the actual procedure.
This is to make sure that your intestinal tract is as clear as possible.
In addition, your surgeon may tell you to take ibuprofen before going in for the surgery. Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory that may help keep the inflammation from the surgery down. Do not do this on your own, only with your surgeon’s say so.
The surgeon has to know what medications you’re on before giving you anesthesia or the anesthetic may react badly with the medication in your bloodstream.
After the laser surgery, you may be on restricted activity for a while.
Lifting will probably be right out, as will heavy exercise.
You’ll also probably be on a special diet to make sure your intestinal system works.
Surgical anesthesia often causes the intestinal system to stop working for a bit, so getting it back into shape is a priority.
Your surgeon will also often prescribe post-operative painkillers and a course of antibiotics.
The painkillers are obvious, after a surgery you will be in pain, but it’s important to take the antibiotics too. They help keep infection from getting into the area.
After surgery the hospital facility will keep you under observation.
The observation will continue until you’re fully recovered from the anesthesia and can tell who and where you are.
They may also want you to be accompanied by another responsible adult, as ongoing painkillers can decrease your ability to drive.
You should be given written material about how your recovery will go, the most common possible complications and what to do if those complications should happen.
Even if you live alone, try and get some help around the house during the recovery period.
Recovery usually lasts about one to two weeks, but it can take longer than that.
You probably won’t have the strength to cook, clean or do much for yourself at first, so getting the support of family or friends is important.
Prevention of Hemorrhoids
Of course, if you had to suffer through a hemorrhoids laser surgery once, you probably don’t want to do it again.
Commit to making the long term lifestyle changes you have to in order to avoid hemorrhoids.
That means eating a healthy diet, getting enough exercise for your circumstances, drinking sufficient water and removing irritants such as harsh dyes, perfumes and detergents.
We’ve written a whole host of information on how to avoid hemorrhoids, so you may want to check it out.
Conclusion on Hemorrhoids Laser Surgery
Getting a laser surgical procedure for hemorrhoids is something you should only ever have to do once.
It’s never pleasant, but by picking out the right surgeon and following surgical instructions to the letter, you shouldn’t have to endure it again.
References used for Hemorrhoids Laser Surgery
Marvin L. Corman, Colon and Rectal Surgery, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2004
David E. Beck, Handbook of Colorectal Surgery, Informa Health Care, 2003