Abstract

Because of the high absorption of near-infrared laser radiation in biological tissue, erbium lasers and holmium lasers emitting at 3 and 2 μm, respectively, have been proven to have optimal qualities for cutting or welding and coagulating tissue. To combine the advantages of both wavelengths, we realized a multiwavelength laser system by simultaneously guiding erbium and holmium laser radiation by means of a single zirconium fluoride (ZrF4) fiber. Laser-induced channel formation in water and poly(acrylamide) gel was investigated by the use of a time-resolved flash-photography setup, while pressure transients were recorded simultaneously with a needle hydrophone. The shapes and depths of vapor channels produced in water and in a submerged gel after single erbium and after combination erbium–holmium radiation delivered by means of a 400-μm ZrF4 fiber were measured. Transmission measurements were performed to determine the amount of pulse energy available for tissue ablation. The effects of laser wavelength and the delay time between pulses of different wavelengths on the photomechanical and photothermal responses of meniscal tissue were evaluated in vitro by the use of histology. It was observed that the use of a short (200-μs, 100-mJ) holmium laser pulse as a prepulse to generate a vapor bubble through which the ablating erbium laser pulse can be transmitted (delay time, 100 μs) increases the cutting depth in meniscus from 450 to 1120 μm as compared with the depth following a single erbium pulse. The results indicate that a combination of erbium and holmium laser radiation precisely and efficiently cuts tissue under water with 20–50-μm collateral tissue damage.

© 1996 Optical Society of America

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