Technology has enabled people to do things we couldn't imagine one hundred years ago. For example, we can talk on the phone even with different time zones or send an email instantly with a hit of the button. Not only did technology helped improved communication, it has also helped the medical and healthcare industry.
Laser technology is used in various industry including the military, entertainment, science, arts and healthcare. The healthcare industry uses lasers for a variety of procedures such as cosmetic surgery, refractive eye surgery, dental procedures, and general surgery. Different lasers are used depending on the procedure. Without laser technology, we can't perform major or minor surgeries to save lives and is considered one of the best tool invented in the last century. Below is a quick look at the type of medical lasers used today along with their risks and benefits.
Common Healthcare Applications for Medical Lasers
Medical lasers are commonly used for:
. Dermatology and aesthetic procedures - To remove scars, tattoos, stretch marks, wrinkles, spots, and other blemishes.
. Dental procedures - Lasers are commonly used in oral surgery, periodontal procedures, and teeth whitening.
. Eye surgery - You've likely heard of LASIK eye surgery, which uses a laser to correct vision problems.
. General surgery - Lasers are also used in various general surgery procedures such as cataract or tumor removal.
Common Laser Types Used in the Healthcare Industry
According to Coherent, laser light's characteristics are defined by its wavelength, average power, and pulsed or continuous wave operation. Laser light can be tailored to a particular medical application and laser tissue interaction (photothermal, photochemical, and photoablation). With a photothermal reaction, light absorbed in the tissue is converted to heat; with a photochemical reaction, excited molecules can chemically react; with a photoablation reaction, laser light breaks up molecular bonds in the tissue.
The healthcare industry uses numerous laser types including CO2 lasers, Excimer lasers, semiconductor diode lasers, OPSL lasers, and fiber component lasers.
. CO2 lasers - Sealed CO2 lasers are used primarily for dermatology, aesthetics, and surgical procedures.
. Excimer lasers - Excimer lasers are used for ophthalmology procedures, primarily refractive eye surgery.
. Semiconductor diode lasers - These lasers are used for soft and hard tissue dental procedures as well as hair removal.
. OPSL lasers - OPSL lasers are used for ophthalmology procedures, primarily photocoagulation.
. Fiber component lasers - These lasers are used for various surgical procedures.
Risks and Benefits of Medical Lasers
According to the FDA, medical lasers, when properly used, allow for better wound healing, more complex surgical tasks, reduced blood loss, decreased patient discomfort after surgery, and the reduced likelihood of wound infection. Because medical lasers used in healthcare use non-ionizing radiation, laser surgery does not have the long-term risks associated with ionizing radiation such as x-rays. That said, there are some risks associated with laser surgery such as: pain, bleeding, discoloration, scarring, and incomplete treatment.
1. Coherent, "Lasers for Medical," - https://www.coherent.com/download/7712/Lasers-for-Medical-Brochure.pdf
2. FDA.gov, "Radiation Emitting Products: Medical Lasers," - http://www.fda.gov/radiation-emittingproducts/radiationemittingproductsandprocedures/surgicalandtherapeutic/ucm115910.htm#rb
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