The word “LASER” immediately brings to mind high tech, modern, space age concepts. The public saw this in action in Star Wars in the form of the light saber. The general feeling is that since the laser is a modern technology, the results of treatment with this device are naturally superior; and indeed, this is often true. However, it is not always the case.
The 4 Elements of a Laser
LASER is an acronym for Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation. There are 4 elements in a laser device. Without getting too technical, these 4 elements are brought together to create an enhanced radiation, usually of a uniform nature.
The delivered product is a very powerful, focused, high energy light beam. In your DVD player this beam can scan the disc which results in a movie coming up on the screen. In medicine, this beam can be used to heat seal torn retinas, heat seal varicose veins, cut out unwanted tissue without significant collateral damage to the surrounding normal tissue, or prevent excess bleeding in surgery.
How LASER Works on Biological Tissue
Biological tissue is a complex mixture of various elements. These elements all have the ability to absorb light in a specific part of the light spectrum. If, for example, a packet of light passes through tissue, it generates NO effects unless it is absorbed by the part of the tissue that will absorb that wavelength.
The target that will absorb the laser’s wavelength is called the chromophore. This absorption temporarily raises the chromophore to a higher energy state. When the chromophore then releases this extra energy back into the tissue [usually in the form of heat], local tissue damage occurs. This is a specific and powerful characteristic of laser therapy in that the laser energy can be directed at a specific chromophore.
LASER Treatments for Varicose and Spider Veins
In the case of varicose veins, a laser fiber is placed inside the vein and activated. The laser energy [at Five Star Vein Institute] uses water as the chromophore, as opposed to hemoglobin. Since water is present both in the blood cells and in the lining cells of the blood vessel, there is more uniform heat sealing of the vessel with less vessel perforations and less post operative discomfort then caused by the older type of lasers.
In the case of spider veins, the results are not as predictable. There are many surface lasers on the market, all using hemoglobin as the chromophore. None of these systems is perfect and because the wavelengths vary, so do the results. That is why most phlebology vein specialists recommend sclerotherapy as the first line for treatment for spider veins of the lower extremities. Now there is a new device called the “Vein Wave” that can be SAFELY used on both leg spider veins and veins on the face.
If laser therapy for any application in medicine is recommended to you, make sure you are comfortable that the physician understands the concept of laser treatment and its complications. There should be a specific reason for using that particular laser on your tissue.
Visit Dr. Robert Ruess at Five Star Vein Institute to find out options available for your vein care needs. Call to schedule your free vein screening.