Safe surgery

Matthew Dale discovers what medical laser users are looking for to ensure safety in their clinics


rom correcting vision to treating cancer, lasers have a variety of uses inside hospitals and clinics. As with any application involving a

laser, rigorous attention needs to be paid to safety. However, this becomes more difficult when the user isn’t an engineer and may be performing delicate life-saving procedures. Luckily, improved laser safety eyewear

is giving doctors a better view during surgery, while better interlock systems are preventing sensitive operations from being interrupted. And, organisations such as the Laser Institute of America and the International Council on Surgical Plume are educating medical professionals about the lesser-known risks of lasers and pushing the enforcement of certain standards and regulations in clinics and hospitals.

Seeing things clearly With a broad selection of glass, polymer and silicon protective eyewear options now available for a wide selection of wavelengths, it would seem that safety equipment manufacturers have all bases

covered. According to Frank Billhardt however, head of sales and marketing at Laservision, medical customers are still on the look-out for low-weight, high visual light transmission (VLT) eyewear that can protect against a broad range of wavelengths: ‘In most cases [these characteristics are] difficult to realise in a single product. This is the general challenge for eyewear for the laser safety industry.’ High VLT eyewear is desirable in medicine, as it enables doctors to perform laser procedures with an unobstructed view. Achieving this while maintaining the required level of protection against harmful wavelengths has proven to be a challenge for manufacturers in the past. ‘Beforehand, filters which

be more challenging to achieve a high VLT with, according to Pro-Lite Technology’s sales engineer, Russell Bailey: ‘Green filters are very common for near infrared laser protection, but doctors often dislike these because they strongly obscure colour, especially red and blue,’ he said. ‘Obviously, in a surgical environment, this could potentially be dangerous.’ A light grey dye has been developed

“We’re now seeing more

provided infrared protection also leaked over into the visible range because of the type of coating being used,’ James Saxon, technical sales engineer at Laser Components, commented. ‘When this happens, the dye may be coloured rather than translucent, which reduces the VLT. Since then, more users have been requesting a higher VLT along with the protection requirement.’ For polymer-based protective eyewear,

applications using holmium and erbium lasers for various medical procedures… they are quite far into the infrared and can use optics that are potentially quite dangerous”

recently, which provides the same level of protection as the green dyes but with a higher VLT. This dye, which protects against Nd:YAG laser radiation at 1,064nm, is almost neutral in colour so the doctors can see better during surgery. According to both

Saxon and Bailey, progress has been made towards achieving almost transparent laser safety eyewear for certain wavelengths. ‘Companies have been developing filters that work specifically in the infrared without blocking the visible spectrum… you can now get filters that are designed for

Laservision’s Eyeball eyewear for patient safety 30 Electro Optics March 2017

coloured dye is essentially baked into the plastic, which gives a scratch-resistant and durable surface while providing the ability to mix multiple dyes together to protect against a broad range of wavelengths. However, certain dye colours have proven to

specific wavelengths and it’s like looking through glass, you would never notice the difference,’ confirmed Saxon. Bailey added that Laservision – a partner of Pro- Lite – has recently introduced novel clear polycarbonate goggles for near-infrared applications. Laservision’s Billhardt commented that

the variety of wavelengths now being used in medical applications can be a risk itself. ‘Here, the likelihood of confusion of the laser safety eyewear is a risk for the end

@electrooptics |

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