Laser surgery uses focused light beams instead of scalpels to treat certain conditions.
What it is
Some conditions are better treated through the use of lasers, which are special, focused light beams, than through traditional surgical methods. For example, a spinal cord tumor, due to its location, may be difficult to remove using conventional tools, such as a scalpel. But a focused light beam, may be better at removing the tumor without damaging surrounding tissue.
The word laser stands for light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation. It is a device that produces an intense beam of light of one single wavelength or color. There are many different types of lasers, each producing a unique wavelength of light and having different properties. For instance, some lasers can cut, creating an incision like a scalpel. A different laser may be used to vaporize tissue and tumors and to coagulate or seal small blood vessels as it cuts to reduce blood loss.
Laser light has qualities that make it ideal for certain conditions, including:
- Laser light can be focused to the size of the head of a pin, even to just a few cells
- Tissue can, but does not have to be touched
- Laser fiber optics allow doctors to reach inaccessible places, often without incisions
- Lasers can be focused through body fluids
The laser is extremely precise, so it damages less of the surrounding tissue. This tends to decrease swelling and promote quicker healing. It can also mean less pain, less blood loss and reduced scarring and recovery time.
Good for treating
Lasers have vast applications. They are used in gynecology, orthopedics, urology, neurology, ear, nose and throat, cardiovascular, gastroenterology, dermatology and opthalmology. Laser surgery can be used to:
- Remove tumors
- Seal small blood vessels to reduce blood loss
- Treat some skin conditions, including removing or improving the looks of warts, moles, birthmarks and tattoos, scars and wrinkles
- Correct visual impairments
- Remove unwanted hair
Good to know
Photodynamic therapy (PDT)
Photodynamic therapy (PDT) is a unique cancer treatment that destroys cancer cells by combining a special photosensitizing drug with exposure to laser light.
The photosensitizing drug is injected into the patient typically about two days before laser treatment. The drug is absorbed into the body and held in the cancer cells.
When exposed to a low level laser light of an exact color or wavelength, the drug is activated and destroys the cancer cells.
What are the benefits of this treatment?
- PDT may cause minimal damage to healthy tissue.
- The procedure usually is performed on an outpatient basis, which means you can go home after a brief recovery period.
What conditions can it treat?
PDT is mainly used to treat tumors on or just under the skin or on the lining of internal tissue. In the United States, PDT is approved for use to treat esophageal cancer and some types of early and advanced lung cancer.
PDT is being investigated for use with several other cancers, including head and neck, brain, bladder and recurrent breast cancer. PDT also may be used to treat other conditions, including psoriasis and coronary artery disease.
Good to know
TransOne is a mobile unit that brings several minimally invasive procedures to physician practices around the metro area. This option is very convenient for patients who prefer to stay close to their home and who may be more comfortable receiving treatments at their regular physician's office – a place already familiar to them.
TransOne offers expertise and equipment in many specialties, including:
- ear, nose and throat
- general surgery