Lasers have an extraordinary array of uses, including in medical procedures. The first reported use of lasers in a medical context was in 1961 by Dr. Charles J Campbell, who harnessed the power of concentrated light to treat a patient suffering from a retinal tumour.
Some 60 years later, lasers have continued to revolutionise the medical industry. If you’re a healthcare manager in charge of medical surgical supplies and are exploring the capabilities of laser technology or looking to upgrade your laser equipment, continue reading to learn a little more about this innovative technology.
What is a laser?
The term laser is actually an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. A laser is a device that releases a light at a particular, coherent wavelength, producing a narrow beam of radiation. Ordinary light, on the other hand, is typically made up of many wavelengths that spread in a variety of directions simultaneously.
A number of different types of lasers exist. They are often categorised based upon their gain medium, which is the material that enables the laser to amplify light. Common gain mediums include gas, liquid, semiconductor, and solid-state.
All of these types of lasers are used in a medical context.
Medical lasers — a short history
The first laser was built in 1960 by Theodore H Maiman, an engineer and physicist. His work was inspired by a number of renowned physicists, including Einstein, who in 1917 wrote a paper proposing the concept of ‘stimulated emission.’ This term refers to the chain reaction that occurs when the radiation of one atom triggers emission of radiation in the next, producing coherent light of a single wavelength. Stimulated emission is a founding principle of laser technology.
It was only around a year later that the technology was adapted for a medical context. The earliest medical applications of lasers were in the specialties of ophthalmology and dermatology. Specialists working in these two fields still make frequent use of laser technology today, alongside urologists, cardiologists, dentistry, and oncologists.
These days, it’s not uncommon for a patient to be treated using a laser. Some of the most widely practised procedures that capitalise on this technology include:
- Surgery: lasers can be used to remove tumours, break down kidney stones, and destroy cataracts in a non-invasive manner.
- Cosmetic procedures: the power of a laser can be harnessed to remove a number of different cosmetic concerns, including tattoos, spider veins, sunspots, scars, and birthmarks.
- Diagnostics: lasers have recently been applied as a diagnostic tool to detect tumours and other bodies of concern.
There are many benefits to using lasers in these contexts, chiefly that laser therapy tends to be less invasive than traditional diagnostic and operative strategies. Patients experience less discomfort and usually have a shorter recovery time. Laser surgery involves reduced blood loss and there is less risk of infection.
Purchasing laser equipment
When purchasing laser equipment, or any type of surgical supplies in Australia, there are a few chief points to keep in mind.
To start with, laser equipment can be quite expensive. If you’re purchasing a laser operative or diagnostic machine for the first time and you manage a relatively small clinic, it’s a good idea to calculate your return on investment. Ensure this is a device that will provide actual value to your clinicians and patients.
Secondly, consider the fact that a laser device will require on-going maintenance and repair. Lasers are finely tuned instruments; they will require calibration to ensure they continue to function accurately. When purchasing medical equipment, check that the supplier offers maintenance as an on-going service. This will help provide peace of mind that the maintenance you do receive is manufacturer approved. You will be less at risk of liability and can be confident regarding the availability of spare parts.
Finally, when researching medical equipment suppliers that sell lasers, consider working with a team that offers comprehensive equipment options. From a logistics standpoint, organising this will be far easier if you only have to liaise with the one supplier.
There are plenty of companies out there that offer lasers and other surgical supplies in Australia. Take your time shopping around to find one that will be able to tailor their services to meet your needs. Ultimately, it will be your patients who benefit from this approach in the long run!