What Is Laser Surgery?
LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission Radiation. In short, it is a device that generates a beam of light energy at a specific wavelength. The first laser was developed in and its use in human surgery became widespread in the late 1980s. The most commonly used veterinary surgical laser is the CO2 laser. The wavelength of the CO2 laser beam is absorbed by the water found in skin and other soft tissue, vaporizing the cells and thereby “cutting” the tissues. The surgeon can control the extent to which the laser beam is absorbed into the surrounding tissue, allowing extreme surgical precision.
There are three major advantages of laser surgery when compared to traditional stainless steel surgical scalpels, which are decreased pain, reduced bleeding and blood loss, and reduced risk of infection.
Decreased postoperative pain is accomplished when the laser seals the nerve endings as it cuts. This reduces pain impulses from the surgery site in the immediate postoperative period. Also, the decreased pain involved with laser surgery may allow the surgeon to remove small skin tumors using local anesthesia rather than having the pet undergo general anesthesia. Reduced bleeding and blood loss is achieved through cauterization of blood vessels as the laser beam vaporizes the tissues. Reduced risk of surgical infection occurs due to the superheating of the tissues in the incision site, destroying any bacteria that are present at the time of surgery.
Therapeutic laser is the application of light energy to areas of the body to stimulate healing. This light–tissue interaction is called photobiomodulation. In the past, therapeutic laser was often referred to as “low-level” or “cold” laser (as opposed to a surgical or “hot” laser). Laser light is different from “normal” light because it is of a single wavelength and it is focused (concentrated). The wavelength influences the biological effects of the therapeutic laser and is measured in nanometers (nm). The wavelength also determines the depth of penetration into the body’s tissues. Most medical laser applications use light wavelengths ranging from visible red to infrared. The shorter, visible wavelengths penetrate tissue to a shallower depth, whereas longer, infrared wavelengths penetrate deeper into tissue.