Hospitals, outpatient clinics, doctors’ offices and many other healthcare contexts are host to a wide variety of medical laser equipment; the number of healthcare-related applications for which lasers are used grows every day. Skin care procedures like stretch-mark reduction, psoriasis treatment and facial resurfacing are often-practiced medical laser treatments.
Eye treatments like LASIK and photorefractive keratectomy are laser-intensive processes. Neodymium and erbium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet lasers (YAG lasers) are used in many medical procedures like wart removal. Some laser varieties can also be used for cancer treatment.
Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. All laser beams are amplified, focused light. A laser beam is generated by the stimulated emission of radiation from a gain medium. A gain medium is the material from which a laser beam is generated; when a gain medium is excited by electricity, the medium’s electrons move between energy levels, releasing radiation as a result.
This entire process takes place within an enclosure. Within that enclosure, several reflective surfaces positioned strategically throughout the enclosure are used to direct the light into a lens at an opening in the enclosure. That lens focuses the light, and depending on the laser system’s configuration, it may be followed by more lenses that focus or reshape the light beam even further.
Medical laser varieties distinguish themselves from each other by the wavelength of the light they produce. Lower wavelength laser systems, like excimer lasers, produce ultraviolet lasers, while higher wavelength light is produced by CO2 lasers. Different surfaces react in different ways to concentrated light of different wavelengths. For example, excimer lasers don’t produce very much noticeable heat at their focal points; instead, they cut tissue by causing it to break down. CO2 lasers, on the other hand, are used because they are capable of generating high enough levels of heat to melt metals.