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JOURNAL ARTICLE

Optical coherence tomography image-guided smart laser knife for surgery

Nitesh Katta, Austin B McElroy, Arnold D Estrada, Thomas E Milner
Lasers in Surgery and Medicine 2018, 50 (3): 202-212
28782115

BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Surgical oncology can benefit from specialized tools that enhance imaging and enable precise cutting and removal of tissue without damage to adjacent structures. The combination of high-resolution, fast optical coherence tomography (OCT) co-aligned with a nanosecond pulsed thulium (Tm) laser offers advantages over conventional surgical laser systems. Tm lasers provide superior beam quality, high volumetric tissue removal rates with minimal residual thermal footprint in tissue, enabling a reduction in unwanted damage to delicate adjacent sub-surface structures such as nerves or micro-vessels. We investigated such a combined Tm/OCT system with co-aligned imaging and cutting beams-a configuration we call a "smart laser knife."

METHODS: A blow-off model that considers absorption coefficients and beam delivery systems was utilized to predict Tm cut depth, tissue removal rate and spatial distribution of residual thermal injury. Experiments were performed to verify the volumetric removal rate predicted by the model as a function of average power. A bench-top, combined Tm/OCT system was constructed using a 15W 1940 nm nanosecond pulsed Tm fiber laser (500 μJ pulse energy, 100 ns pulse duration, 30 kHz repetition rate) for removing tissue and a swept source laser (1310 ± 70 nm, 100 kHz sweep rate) for OCT imaging. Tissue phantoms were used to demonstrate precise surgery with blood vessel avoidance. Depth imaging informed cutting/removal of targeted tissue structures by the Tm laser was performed.

RESULTS: Laser cutting was accomplished around and above phantom blood vessels while avoiding damage to vessel walls. A tissue removal rate of 5.5 mm3 /sec was achieved experimentally, in comparison to the model prediction of approximately 6 mm3 /sec.

CONCLUSION: We describe a system that combines OCT and laser tissue modification with a Tm laser. Simulation results of the tissue removal rate using a simple model, as a function of average power, are in good agreement with experimental results using tissue phantoms. Lasers Surg. Med. 50:202-212, 2018. © 2017 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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