What is laser surgery?
Laser surgery is a technology that enables the physician to perform various types of procedures using a very focused beam of light. Because that beam of light is very intense, lasers can be used by skillful hands to "cut" through human tissue by vaporizing it.
What type of procedures can be performed with laser?
Lasers are very useful for corrective eye surgery, and in podiatric applications, for wart excisions and other skin and soft tissue procedures.
One benefit of this approach is that tissues cut with laser bleed somewhat less than with traditional surgery. And some patients (but not all) report less pain with laser surgery than with other surgical methods.
What are the drawbacks to laser surgery?
Despite their useful applications, there are substantial limitations on what lasers can do. For example, lasers can be used only on soft tissues. There are no lasers yet available that will cut bone, a feature that would be necessary in many podiatric surgeries.
Other than being limited to soft tissue surgery, the other big drawback for lasers is their high cost, making them difficult to afford for most private practitioners. And as third-party insurers (like MSP or extended plans) pay nothing more for surgeries performed by laser than by other methods, the additional expense to the private practitioner would be passed on to the patient.
I've read advertisements for correcting bunions and other bone surgeries through laser surgery. Can this be done?
It's a misleading claim.
In order to perform the vast majority of bunion procedures, you must cut through bone, which is something lasers cannot do. Yet advertisements for laser bunion surgery are, in fact, seen from time to time. So what's going on?
Because lasers cost a lot, they are sometimes used in advertisements as a marketing tool. This is seen particularly in the U.S., where hospitals, surgi-centers and private physicians would like to recoup large capital costs in purchasing the laser. So when the "laser" bunion surgery is performed, it is used just to make the initial incision and dissect through some of the superficial layers of soft tissue. But when the surgeon gets down to the bone layer, the rest of the surgery is done in a traditional manner. So in the end, then, very little of the surgery may have been actually performed with the laser.
What is radio surgery?
Radio surgery is a similar technology to laser, only radiosurgery uses a different sort of energy--radiowaves instead of highly-focused laser light. The types of applications in which it can be used are very similar to laser, and it offers the same advantages as laser. The other benefit to radiosurgery is that it costs significantly less than lasers, meaning it costs the physician or medical centre less, and so, it costs the patient less.