Laser therapy

© Fraunhofer ILT, Aachen, Germany.

Laser procedures are playing a transformative role in medical technology. Minimally invasive procedures using endoscopes, laser-based eye surgery, the removal of tattoos and the treatment of skin diseases are just as much a part of the repertoire as innovative approaches to removing bone tissue using short laser pulses instead of saws and milling machines. In dentistry and the treatment of cancer, lasers also contribute to gentler treatments that are less stressful for the patient.

Advantages such as minimal damage to surrounding tissue pay off in faster healing processes and minimized postoperative complications. The laser procedures developed at Fraunhofer ILT thus make important contributions to economical, efficient healthcare.

Hard tissue ablation with ultrashort laser pulses

The removal of bone tissue, for example to open the skull (craniotomy) for neurosurgical procedures, is usually carried out using milling cutters and saws. Drills are used to treat hard dental tissue. The noise and vibrations of these mechanical procedures cause great stress and even trauma to those being treated. Fraunhofer ILT is developing alternative procedures based on ultrashort pulse lasers (USP), which are barely perceptible to patients. The use of USP minimizes thermal stress and prevents any carbonization so that the hard tissue is not damaged and surgical interventions heal seamlessly. Laser ablation is monitored using optical coherence tomography (OCT) to determine the morphology and control the penetration depth with micrometer precision.

Laser surgery

Laser-based procedures are ideal for minimally invasive interventions. In this context, Fraunhofer ILT is developing microsurgical systems, for example, a laser-based solution for the decompression of spinal canal stenosis. Ultrashort pulse (USP) lasers significantly minimize the risks of these procedures, which were previously performed with high-speed milling machines. The laser beam is coupled into a hand piece, the control of which includes interferometric inline measurements of the cutting depth.

Laser for wound and vessel closure

Microsurgery needs solutions for closing tiny blood vessels, and specifically applied and fixed wound dressings help to support healing processes. For both applications, Fraunhofer ILT is working closely with medical institutions to advance a high-precision approach based on thermally crosslinked protein adhesives. In combination with laser sources with variable wavelengths and close sensory and metrological monitoring, the optical penetration depth of the laser light can be adapted to the specific absorption properties of the treated tissue when the sutures are bonded and the dressings fixed. The procedure, therefore, supports high-precision microsurgical interventions.

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