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Phys Med Biol. 2005 Apr 21;50(8):1871-83. Epub 2005 Apr 6.

The effect of free-electron laser pulse structure on mid-infrared soft-tissue ablation: ablation metrics.

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  • 1Department of Biomedical Engineering, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN 37235, USA.


Pulsed mid-infrared (6.45 microm) radiation has been shown to cut soft tissue with minimal collateral damage (<40 microm); however, the mechanism of ablation has not been elucidated to date. The goal of this research was to examine the role of the unique pulse structure of the Vanderbilt Mark-III free-electron laser (FEL) and its role in the efficient ablation of soft tissue with minimal collateral damage. The effect of the picosecond micropulse was examined by running the native FEL pulse structure through a pulse stretcher in order to increase the micropulse length from 1 ps up to approximately 200 ps. This allowed us to determine whether or not the picosecond train of micropulses played any role in the ablation process. The ablation threshold was determined for water and mouse dermis for each micropulse length. While the results of the analysis showed a statistically significant difference between 1 and 200 ps, the average per cent difference amounts to only 28% and is not proportional to the 200-fold drop in peak irradiance. The ablation efficiency was also measured on gelatin and mouse dermis for the different micropulse lengths. A small but statistically significant difference was observed between 1 and 200 ps, with the 200 ps pulse being more efficient on gelatin, and with the opposite trend for mouse dermis. We have shown that there is a small effect of micropulse duration of the FEL on the ablation process; however, this effect is negligible between 1 and 200 ps given that there is a 200-fold decrease in peak intensity. These results suggest that as we move forward in developing alternative laser sources for tissue ablation to replace the FEL, the picosecond micropulse structure is not a critical parameter that needs to be duplicated.

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