Healthy prognosis for lasers in medicine

July 1, 1998
The relationship between lasers and medicine has had its ups and downs over the years. The reasons include unfulfilled promises by researchers and laser makers and unrealistic expectations on the part of the end users or investors.

The relationship between lasers and medicine has had its ups and downs over the years. The reasons include unfulfilled promises by researchers and laser makers and unrealistic expectations on the part of the end users or investors. Things are changing though, and FDA-certified therapeutic applications of lasers now range from general and cosmetic surgery to ophthalmology. Their success has pushed the stock prices of many medical-laser firms well out of the doldrums. In fact, worldwide sales of nondiode lasers for medical therapy should reach $340 million this year, making medicine the second-largest application for nondiode lasers after material processing (see Laser Focus World, Jan. 1998, p. 78).

Ophthalmology is one of the largest medical applications and has received a significant boost in the past few years thanks to photorefractive surgery that reshapes the cornea and permanently corrects many vision problems. The short-pulse UV output of excimer lasers has been a key factor in making the technique possible; this month`s Back to Basics feature examines the theory and design of this laser type (see p. 131). Another medical application is photodynamic therapy (PDT). In this case, a photosensitive dye is used to localize cancer treatment both inside and outside the human body. Now, recent developments in diode-based light sources are likely to make use of PDT more widespread (see p. 139).

Meanwhile, on the diagnostic medical front, lasers are also gaining acceptance in certain areas and will be seen increasingly in clinical laboratories for routine testing. Applying spectroscopic analysis to tissue presents its own set of unique challenges but appears likely to offer early detection of certain diseases--Raman spectroscopy, in particular, may provide enhanced in vivo detection and diagnosis (see p. 83).

Asia still shows promise

The "Asian financial crisis" has been with us now for more than six months, with many observers offering their interpretation of what the real impact will be on the US economy. Regardless of the specifics, there seems little doubt that the impact will be generally negative. Within the lasers and optoelectronics industry, however, applications in the semiconductor and display industries, seem poised to provide a buffer against the crisis. The change to 0.25-µm features and smaller will drive acquisition of new optical lithography equipment, for example, while the flat-panel-display industry is increasing its purchase of laser-based annealing equipment. A review of the situation throughout Asia begins on p. 113.

About the Author

Stephen G. Anderson | Director, Industry Development - SPIE

 Stephen Anderson is a photonics industry expert with an international background and has been actively involved with lasers and photonics for more than 30 years. As Director, Industry Development at SPIE – The international society for optics and photonics – he is responsible for tracking the photonics industry markets and technology to help define long-term strategy, while also facilitating development of SPIE’s industry activities. Before joining SPIE, Anderson was Associate Publisher and Editor in Chief of Laser Focus World and chaired the Lasers & Photonics Marketplace Seminar. Anderson also co-founded the BioOptics World brand. Anderson holds a chemistry degree from the University of York and an Executive MBA from Golden Gate University.    

Sponsored Recommendations

Request a free Micro 3D Printed sample part

April 11, 2024
The best way to understand the part quality we can achieve is by seeing it first-hand. Request a free 3D printed high-precision sample part.

Motion Scan and Data Collection Methods for Electro-Optic System Testing

April 10, 2024
Learn how different scanning patterns and approaches can be used in measuring an electro-optic sensor performance, by reading our whitepaper here!

Case Study: Medical Tube Laser Processing

March 28, 2024
To enhance their cardiovascular stent’s precision, optimize throughput and elevate part quality, a renowned manufacturer of medical products embarked on a mission to fabricate...

Melles Griot® XPLAN™ CCG Lens Series

March 19, 2024
IDEX Health & Science sets a new standard with our Melles Griot® XPLAN™ CCG Lens Series fluorescence microscope imaging systems. Access superior-quality optics with off-the-shelf...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of Laser Focus World, create an account today!