Every veterinary practice wants to stand out from the competition, but this can be a challenge. One possibility is to add a new service offering such as care, massage or acupuncture. According to Boaz Man, DVM, owner and medical director of Boca Midtowne Animal Hospital in Boca Raton, Fla., That differentiator could be a carbon dioxide (CO2) laser.
Laser technology has been used in a variety of ways for many years, including in human medicine for a quarter of a century. The CO2 laser is becoming increasingly popular in veterinary medicine because of its surgical benefits for both veterinarians and patients. At a recent Fetch dvm360® virtual conference, Man explained the benefits of this type of surgical laser.
CO2 laser today
The latest CO2 lasers were first developed in the 1990s and deliver a beam of light through a thin, flexible, hollow waveguide commonly referred to as a “fiber”. The beam exits either through a pencil-sized handpiece that is focused by replaceable, reusable, and autoclavable tips, or through a slim, adjustable, tip-less handpiece. Both tip and tipless handpieces have focal lengths from 0.75 to 3 mm and are held very close to the tissue, allowing for excellent precision and use in a variety of procedures.
“The flexible fiber is amazing because it’s very light,” said Man, who compared using a laser handpiece to using a pen. “You can use a laser at any angle without worrying about physical limitations.”
Humans have used the same 20W laser in their practice for their past 8 years and have applied it in thousands of surgeries, although they admit they are ready to upgrade because they want more power. “The 30 W laser is ideal for use on pets,” he says. “It feels like you’re using a scalpel.” Waveguide lasers are available up to 40W – the highest power commercially available for veterinary applications – but these are reserved for use on large animals such as horses.
Because CO2 lasers produce minimal tissue trauma, post-operative pain, bleeding, and swelling are reduced, which speeds healing. The laser can be used to seal nerve endings, blood vessels, and lymph vessels, giving veterinarians more control over the surgical field. The precision that CO2 lasers offer makes many processes easier and cleaner. Post-operative scarring is also reduced. With CO2 laser surgery, hospital stay is reduced and the patient does not need as many bandages or follow-up exams, saving both your team and your clients time and money.
It is precisely because CO2 lasers work well that they are potentially dangerous. It is therefore important that all employees involved in laser procedures understand how the devices work and adhere to all associated safety guidelines, including personal protective equipment.
Hazards associated with the use of CO2 lasers can arise from direct contact with the laser beam and from environmental pollution when the laser comes into contact with tissue. Potentially serious skin and eye injuries can be caused by direct or reflected rays. “This [beams] can cause harm if you are not careful, ”said Man. “Just like you would not wave a scalpel around, you always need to make sure that you are taking the correct precautions when using a laser, including protecting your eyes.”
Environmental hazards include the formation of air pollutants and the ignition of flammable substances in the operating room. The laser is equipped with an evacuator that is triggered each time the device is fired. “It’s a cleaner way to evacuate smoke without contaminating the air,” said Man.
One final note of caution when using CO2 lasers: Do not use alcohol to prepare the surgical patient. “Lasers and alcohol don’t mix,” said Man. “Use sterile saline solution instead.”
What Makes a Good Surgical Laser?
If you are in the market for a surgical laser it is important to know what
to search. Man suggests answering these questions before asking them
- Does the laser cut / vaporize cells efficiently?
- Does the laser help control and eliminate bleeding at the same time?
- Is this the ideal laser to meet my patients’ needs?
- He also recommends looking for positive testimonials and references for the company and equipment, and avoiding vendors who do not have well-established service skills.
To learn more about surgical lasers, it is recommended that you review case studies, many of which can be found on the Aesculight website at aesculight.com//case studies, and read the 2019 special veterinary edition of the Journal of American Laser Study Club.