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Lasers in Veterinary Medicine

by Terri Levinstein, DVM

Lasers have been used for medical purposes since the 1960's. However, their practical applications were extremely limited due to the size, expense, and difficulty of maintenance of these first lasers. With recent advances in technology, lasers have made the transition to many applications in human and veterinary medicine.

Laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation. What this means in practical terms is that energy is used to excite atoms and produce photons that resonate in a laser chamber. These photons excite other atoms in the laser chamber until a highly concentrated beam of light is produced. In veterinary medicine we use a Carbon Dioxide Laser. This light is in the ultraviolet spectrum which means that it is not visible to us.

Lasers can provide the surgeon with a tool that can vaporize abnormal tissue, make paper thin incisions, provide hemostasis (control of bleeding), and gives the surgeon unparalleled precision. All of this is accomplished with virtually no damage to surrounding tissue. In addition, the laser seals nerve endings, lymphatics and small blood vessels. To the animal this means less pain, less swelling, and less bleeding. To the veterinarian, this means better visualization of surgical fields, more precision, and less surgical time.

Laser especially lends itself to declaw procedures in cats because of the precision, the ability to do the surgery without tourniquets and the marked reduction in pain and discomfort to the cat. Most veterinarians who are proficient at laser declaws, now refuse to do them any other way.

Other Laser surgery applications are surgery of the oral cavity, ear surgery, tumor removal, skin mass removal, ovariohysterectomies (spays), castration (neuters), and eye surgery.

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