Laser: Safety

Advanced, Clinical Subspecialties

The safety of lasers depends on the wavelength of the laser as well as the application of the laser.

Common hazards of laser use include:

● Damage to eyes. Laser beams can be redirected off of reflective surfaces without decreasing their power output (e.g., argon lasers can pass through cornea and lens without causing damage, but cause damage to retina. Nd: YAG lasers injure the cornea, posterior chamber, and retina)

○ Goggles specific to the type of laser being used during the surgery should be placed on the patient as well as worn by all healthcare providers in room with the patient

● Fire risk (e.g., lasers can ignite any flammable material including gowns, drapes, plastic tubing including endotracheal tubes)

○ Backstops should not be made of flammable material. Combustible materials such as alcohol should not be used with lasers.

○ During airway surgery with lasers, multiple safeguards can be taken including wrapping ETTs in reflective aluminum tape, use of noncombustible metal ETTs, use of methylene blue in ETT cuff, or avoidance of use of ETT at all

● Burns- soaking materials in water may reduce incidence of patient/provider burns

● Aerolization of viral materials, such as with laser vaporization of condylomata

○ Masks should be worn by all when lasers are in use


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Jacob Anderson, MD