When exploring surgical CO2 lasers, it is important to understand the technology behind various systems (for example, see Figure 1, which compares glass tube articulated arm (left) to flexible fiber waveguide (right) CO2 lasers). An educated decision will allow clinicians to purchase the most durable, efficient, and profitable laser for their practice.
Comparing Surgical CO2 Laser Technologies
Surgical CO2 Laser Building Blocks
The LightScalpel laser’s design includes the following critical components (see Figure 2):
- all-metal laser tube;
- low voltage 32 volts DC and RF power supplies;
- heat exchanger;
- beam delivery system;
- laser power meter;
- beam attenuator – shutter;
- devices monitoring the performance of all critical components 1 through 6;
- user control panel;
- fiber calibration port;
- software program controlling all the hardware items 1 through 9; and
- safety ‘watch-dog’ software program monitoring items 1 through 10.
Figure 1. The difference between old and new technologies is vast
State-of-the-Art Flexible Fiber CO2 Laser Surgical Technology
The latest generation of flexible fiber surgical CO2 lasers – the LightScalpel LS-1005 and LS-2010 lasers – feature the best in flexible fiber waveguide technology to enable the highest laser beam quality delivered to the surgical site.
Flexible Fiber Waveguide
Flexible fiber waveguide surgical CO2 medical and dental lasers shown in Figures 2 and 3 have been the dominant technology since the mid-1990s. Resilient, long-lasting flexible fibers enable compact, ergonomic handpieces to have a scalpel-like feel, featuring pinpoint accuracy, as well as enhanced flexibility and accessibility for surgeons. On the contrary, the articulated arm shown in Figure 3 is an old technology (developed in the 1970s – 1980s).
All Metal Laser Tube
Durable and reliable all-metal RF excited CO2 laser technology (seen in Figures 2 and 3) is dominant in medical applications (tens of thousands of installations), industrial applications (hundreds of thousands installations), and military laser applications in the power range of 10 – 10,000 watts. This is the ONLY proven and reliable technology that allows for fast, inexpensive service in very demanding industrial settings for cutting, welding, engraving, printing, marking and coding, etc.
In contrast to all-metal surgical CO2 lasers, antiquated fragile glass tubes (1970s technology) seen in Figure 3 are difficult to service. Flowing liquid is needed to prevent the glass from cracking, which is caused by the intense heat generated by electric discharge plasma inside the laser tube. A very high voltage, over 10,000 volts, is required to operate plasma in such glass tubes. Neither eroded electrodes nor metal sputtered glass tube walls are serviceable, which often calls for laser tube replacement rather than repair. These reasons, among others, (including difficulties with glass tube plasma pulsing and turning on, severe limitations on laser pulse width, laser power stability, laser beam quality, etc.) have allowed all-metal lasers to replace glass tubes in virtually all industrial and most medical applications since the mid-1990s.
Fiber / Laser Beam Power Calibration
LightScalpel is the only surgical CO2 laser on the market with the ability to verify (daily or however frequently) that laser power at the distal end of the beam delivery (handpiece) matches the laser power value selected on the control panel. Verification is achieved through the calibration port on the side of the laser as shown in Figure 2.
When using a competitor’s foreign-made CO2 laser without distal calibration capabilities, the clinician does not have a way to determine how much laser power is applied to the patient.