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How Does Laser Surgery Work?

author image Adam Cloe
Adam Cloe has been published in various scientific journals, including the "Journal of Biochemistry." He is currently a pathology resident at the University of Chicago. Cloe holds a Bachelor of Arts in biochemistry from Boston University, a M.D. from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. in pathology from the University of Chicago.
How Does Laser Surgery Work?
Someone is undergoing laser surgery. Photo Credit Huntstock/DisabilityImages/Getty Images


LASER (Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation) surgery works by using intense beams of light that are carefully focused by a machine. The machines that generate laser light work by emitting only one wavelength (or color) of light, which can then have its intensity modulated by the machine. The laser light is absorbed by certain structures in the body and heats them up, causing them to burst. Different wavelengths of laser light are absorbed by different structures within the body. The laser light can be used to heat up water, hemoglobin (found in blood) or skin pigments. Laser surgery commonly uses these laser beams to cut through tissue.


Laser surgery can be used as an alternative for classical "scalpel" surgery, as well as for the treatment of damaged blood vessels, cosmetic skin problems and the treatment of eyes. Laser surgery offers many advantages over traditional surgical techniques. Laser surgery often carries a reduced risk of infection, less bleeding and greater precision. This means that laser surgery can more effectively target the diseased tissue, which can help prevent scarring and can also allow laser surgery to make very small adjustments and cuts to tissue (which allows it to be used to treat the eyes).

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Laser Types

Carbon dioxide lasers are commonly used for many kinds of laser surgery. They can be focused to carefully cut through tissue, or in a defocused manner for removing the outer layer of skin. Erbium:YAG lasers are high-powered lasers that are used because they can penetrate the skin and vaporize water beneath the skin's surface. These kinds of lasers are often used to eliminate wrinkles. Yellow light lasers are used because they are best absorbed by hemoglobin, which allows them to be used to help close off damaged blood vessels.

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