Bayleaf Myth Busters-Laser Surgery

We are aware of the tremendous advances that technology has brought to the practice of medicine. Much of this technology transfers to veterinary medicine and has added greatly to our ability to diagnose and treat our pets. Lasers have become a valuable tool in medicine. They provide a new tool for cutting and removing tissue with minimal hemorrhage and scarring. The laser allows an ophthalmologist the opportunity to work inside the eye without ever creating an incision. Lasers are used for many cosmetic procedures. They can be used to remove tattoos, smooth acne scars, and eliminate unsightly varicose veins to name a few.

Some years ago, I began seeing a type of laser being marketed to veterinarians called a CO2 Laser. The main utility of the CO2 laser is as a cutting tool. The claim was that the laser offered a means of creating a skin incision that was less painful, created less hemorrhage, healed faster, could lower the rate of infection and scarred less. Apparently, a number of veterinarians bought the pitch and invested in these expensive devices. The sales pitch was that the veterinarian with a surgical laser could use the laser as a marketing tool. Veterinarians offering laser surgery could charge more and assert that they were practicing cutting edge medicine.

Interestingly, human surgeons rarely use lasers for routine incisions. There is good reason for this preference. Research has clearly demonstrated that a scalpel incision creates less scarring and heals faster than incisions created by laser. Disposable scalpel blades are inexpensive. Creating a scalpel incision is highly efficient. A laser incision requires significant additional anesthesia time to safely create the same incision. Surgeons and staff must wear special glasses to prevent injury from the reflected laser beam and special non-reflective surgical instruments are required. We prefer the scalpel approach. Where we need to control hemorrhage, we use an electrocautery device identical to those used in human surgery. With this device we can control hemorrhage quickly and precisely for a fraction of the cost of laser. The same device can be used as cutting tool when needed. In cutting mode, the electrocautery creates an incision equivalent to CO2 laser in terms of speed of healing and scarring.

We believe in the power of technology. We were one of the first practices in the area to adopt electronic medical records (EMR’s). EMR’s allow for better medical record keeping and allow our doctors to access your pet’s medical record from home in the event your pet requires after hours emergency care. We have also invested in state of the art digital radiography (x-ray) and extensive in-house laboratory equipment. These devices allow for faster diagnoses and treatment for your pet. But, we do not invest in expensive gimmicks and we won’t charge you more for a service that offers no real benefit to you or your pets.