A laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) is a technology that emits a special kind of intense light
A laser (light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation) is a technology that emits a special kind of intense light that travels in a narrow beam. Laser therapy in medicine uses this strong beam of light to cut, burn, or destroy body tissue. Unlike X-rays, lasers are non-ionizing radiations, which means they will not cause cancers on long-term exposure. Lasers are now being widely used in various medical procedures including dermatology, plastic surgery, wound healing, nerve stimulation, dentistry, ophthalmology, and many other therapeutic and surgical procedures. The lasers used in medicine are United States Food and Drug Administration (US FDA) approved.
Types of lasers used in medicine
There are many different types of lasers in the medical field; each one works differently and is used for different purposes. The laser light can be delivered either continuously or intermittently. In medicine, lasers allow the surgeons to work at a high level of precision and ablate or remove the damaged tissues. The following most used type of lasers in medicine:
- Gas lasers or carbon dioxide (CO2) and argon lasers are the highest-powered, continuous-wave lasers and are frequently used in medical procedures, such as skin resurfacing, removing vocal cysts, bumps, nodules.
- CO2 lasers are used in place of a scalpel for most procedures and are best suited for soft tissue procedures and superficial cancers, such as skin cancer.
- Argon lasers are unique laser system because it uses noble gas as the active medium and is designed to emit a blue/green light, which is absorbed by hemoglobin in the blood cells. The heat allows the laser to close off the ruptured blood cells. It is used in various conditions, such as glaucoma and diabetic eye disease.
- Solid-state laser or Nd: YAG lasers is a crystal that is used as a laser medium that can travel along the optical fibers. They are used in laser-induced tissue thermotherapy to remove benign and malignant lesions in various organs, cosmetic surgery, and to treat minor vascular defects.
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Applications of laser therapy
Lasers can be used for many medical purposes. They are more precise and less invasive than traditional surgical instruments. Because the laser beam is so small and precise, it allows health care providers to safely treat tissue without injuring the surrounding area. The important clinical applications of lasers are:
- Shrink or destroy tumors, polyps, and precancerous growths in the body.
- Repair a detached retina or a small retinal hole and improve vision.
- Treat varicose veins, remove kidney stones, and prostate.
- Seal ruptured blood vessels to prevent blood loss, nerve endings to reduce pain, and lymph vessels. Also, it is used to reduce swelling.
- Used cosmetically to remove warts, moles, hair, sunspots, tattoos, and lessen the appearance of wrinkles and scars.
- Used in dentistry for teeth whitening and various gum surgeries.
Risks of laser in medicine
The laser light beam does not pose major health risks to the patient or medical team. Certain precautions would be taken by the doctor to use the laser safely, such as eye protection during the procedure. The procedure required a specialized operation room (OR) set-up to prevent laser beams to reflect and cause complications. Laser treatment otherwise has the same risks as open surgeries. However, the recovery time from laser surgery is usually faster than recovery from open surgery. Some health or skin conditions may be aggravated by laser surgeries. Other risks include:
- Changes in skin color
- Localized burns
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Medically Reviewed on 3/10/2021
United States Food and Drug Administration. Medical Lasers. https://www.fda.gov/radiation-emitting-products/surgical-and-therapeutic-products/medical-lasers
Science Direct. Laser Medicine. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/laser-medicine