What is a laser?
The word laser is an acronym for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation.
Laser differs in two important ways: the wavelength of light that they produce and the power of the light that they produce. In medical applications, different wavelengths affect living tissue in different ways. For example, ophthalmologists use one wavelength of laser light to make fine incisions on the surface of the eye, and another wavelength of laser light to harmlessly transmit through the eye to treat the retina.
What benefits does a therapeutic laser provide?
Laser therapy reduces pain and inflammation and speeds healing. It is noninvasive and drug-free and has virtually no side effects. Studies indicate that laser-treated wounds heal in one-third to one-half less time than required in normal healing. By using laser therapy as an adjunct to traditional treatment methods involving medications, the amount of medication can often be reduced and in some cases eliminated completely. Laser treatments are drug-free, which is especially important for patients who may suffer side effects from medications.
How does a therapeutic laser work?
Infrared laser light from therapy lasers harmlessly penetrates deep into tissues where it is absorbed by the cells and converted into chemical energy, called a photochemical effect. Laser therapy uses light energy converted to chemical energy in the tissue to stimulate mitochondria within the cells in a process called “photo-bio-stimulation” or “photo-biomodulation.” A cascade of beneficial effects then takes place at the cellular level, which reduces pain and inflammation and heals tissue. Other examples of photochemical processes include photosynthesis in plants and the formation of vitamin D in human skin cells.
- Laser therapy decreases pain perception through its effect on nerve cells and nociceptors (sensory cells that sense pain stimuli and send nerve signals to the brain and spinal cord) by increasing stimulation thresholds, reducing neuronal impulses, and increasing the release of tissue endorphins.
- Inflammation is reduced by decreasing the release of prostaglandins and inflammatory mediators, increasing macrophage activity and leukocytic phagocytosis, and by reducing edema through dilation of the lymphatic vessels and activation of the lymph drainage system.
As a result, inflammation, redness, bruising, and swelling are reduced when treated with laser. This is especially important for conditions where anti-inflammatory medications are risky for the patient due to the patient’s age, species or liver/kidney health.
- Healing is accelerated by increased blood flow from vasodilation, dilation of the blood vessels, increased angiogenesis (growth of new blood vessels) and capillary production, increased production of pro-healing cytokines (cell-signaling protein molecules), and the stimulation of fibroblast activity and collagen production.
What conditions can be treated with laser therapy?
Although not a panacea (and not effective for every patient and condition), most patients with pain, inflammation or healing tissue are candidates for Class IV laser therapy. These include both acute and chronic medical conditions as well as routine treatment of surgical sites and extended rehabilitation programs for orthopedic surgery patients. Laser therapy is a drug-free treatment modality that can often replace or enhance other treatment plans recommended by your veterinarian.
We provide a postoperative laser treatment to the surgical site of all of our surgery patients, and to the gum tissue after all of our dental procedures.
How did laser therapy come to be used in veterinary medicine?
Since the Federal Drug Administration approved Class IV therapy lasers in the United States in 2005, acceptance has been seen on the human side in physical therapy, rehabilitation, wound care and sports medicine programs. For many years, world-class athletes and thoroughbred racehorses have benefited from laser therapy treatments. In athletic environments, therapy lasers are primarily used to reduce swelling, reduce pain, and speed the healing process. These mechanisms allow veterinarians to successfully treat a wide range of conditions non-invasively and without drugs.
How quickly does laser therapy have an effect?
Response to laser therapy varies widely depending on the individual animal’s situation, but studies indicate that laser-treated wounds heal in one-third to one-half less time than required in normal healing.
conditions may be treated only once or multiple times over several days or weeks, depending on the severity of the condition. Examples include wounds, fractures, abscesses, anal sacculitis, acute otitis, hematomas, sprains, strains, muscle discomfort, cystitis, urethritis, injection site soreness, pyotraumatic dermatitis, venomous bites and pododermatitis.
Chronic treatment extends over a longer time. Chronic conditions are subjected to an initial Induction Phase of treatments until a clinical response is noted. Patients then enter a Transition Phase of gradually reduced frequency of treatment to determine the minimum frequency required to maintain optimum function. They then begin the Maintenance Phase, which may involve treatment as little as every three to six weeks.
Postsurgical and dental treatment with routine protocols after surgery and dental procedures to reduce postprocedure pain and inflammation. Procedures resulting in greater tissue disruption, like orthopedic surgeries, are treated immediately postoperatively and then twice weekly for six treatments.
How long does a therapy laser treatment take?
Treatments take just two to ten minutes for each affected area.
What does the laser feel like?
Human patients report a gentle warming sensation in the area being treated. With veterinary patients, practitioners commonly observe that even fractious pets tend to relax and become calmer during treatment.