Laser Surgery Overview

What is laser surgery?

Laser surgery is a type of surgery that uses special light beams instead of instruments for surgical procedures. LASER stands for "Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation." Lasers were first developed in 1960. Newer laser modifications continue to have a large impact on medical and surgical practices. A large part of their impact has been seen in the treatment of various skin lesion and diseases.

How does a laser work?

The functioning of a laser goes back to Albert Einstein's quantum theory of radiation and includes other theories that help explain local tissue damage. As the light beam hits the skin, the skin may either reflect the light away, scatter the light, absorb the light, or let the light pass right through the different layers of the skin. Each layer of the skin uses the light differently.

Certain parts of the skin, called chromophones, absorb the light. When these chromophones absorb the light, physical, mechanical, chemical, or temperature changes may occur in the tissue.

There are many different types of lasers, including the carbon dioxide laser, the YAG (neodymium, or yttrium aluminum garnet) laser, and the argon laser. Each one works in a different manner and may be used for different treatment options. Laser light can be delivered either continuously or intermittently.

What types of surgeries use lasers?

There are many indications for the use of lasers in surgery. The following are some of the more common indications:

  • to remove tumors

  • to help prevent blood loss by sealing small blood vessels

  • to seal lymph vessels to help decrease swelling and decrease the spread of tumor cells

  • to treat some skin conditions, including to remove or improve warts, moles, tattoos, birthmarks, scars, and wrinkles

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