New laser surgery developed in Canada

A new surgical laser developed in Canada will allow people’s wounds to heal faster after surgery and leave them with smaller scars, researchers say, though one expert cautioned the results are preliminary.

TORONTO — A new surgical laser developed in Canada will allow people’s wounds to heal faster after surgery and leave them with smaller scars, researchers say, though one expert cautioned the results are preliminary.

In a study published this week in the online journal PLoS ONE the researchers compared the new laser to conventional surgical lasers and traditional surgical tools such as scalpels.

The team from the Hospital for Sick Children and the University of Toronto found that using the Picosecond IR laser in mice results in scars that were half the width of those from traditional methods.

The study authors say this laser “appears to have achieved the long held promise of lasers in minimally invasive surgery.”

“When lasers were first invented people thought that lasers would be really good for surgery because you could put the light source into hard-to-reach areas,” said Dr. Benjamin Alman.

The problem has been the damage and scarring around the surgical site caused by traditional lasers. This laser could be used to perform surgeries inside the brain or heart and leave much less tissue damage, Alman said.

“If you use your imagination it’s lots of things it could potentially be used for,” said the head of the division of orthopedic surgery at Sick Kids and chair of orthopedic surgery at the University of Toronto. “Of course, there is a little bit of science fiction to some of that because it’ll take a while to develop some of those techniques, but this is a first start.”

Even though the study was done using mice, Alman said it’s ready to be used on people now.

“I would not be surprised if people are starting to use this clinically, at least part of clinical trials, within the year,” he said.

But Dr. Rod Rohrich, past president of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, said rat model scarring does not extrapolate to human model scarring.

“This is a very preliminary, promising animal study yet to be . . . proven that it has made the quantum leap to humans,” Rohrich said from Dallas, Texas, just before leaving for Toronto for the organization’s annual meeting.

Rohrich said further study is needed, but any new technology that would truly decrease scarring in humans would be great.

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