, Volume 27, Issue 6, pp 1213-1223

Comparing an optical parametric oscillator (OPO) as a viable alternative for mid-infrared tissue ablation with a free electron laser (FEL)

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Beneficial medical laser ablation removes material efficiently with minimal collateral damage. A Mark-III free electron laser (FEL), at a wavelength of 6.45 μm has demonstrated minimal damage and high ablation yield in ocular and neural tissues. While this wavelength has shown promise for surgical applications, further advances are limited by the high overhead for FEL use. Alternative mid-infrared sources are needed for further development. We compared the FEL with a 5-μs pulse duration with a Q-switched ZGP-OPO with a 100-ns pulse duration at mid-infrared wavelengths. There were no differences in the ablation threshold of water and mouse dermis with these two sources in spite of the difference in their pulse structures. There was a significant difference in crater depth between the ZGP:OPO and the FEL. At 6.1 μm, the OPO craters are eight times the depth of the FEL craters. The OPO craters at 6.45 and 6.73 μm were six and five times the depth of the FEL craters, respectively. Bright-field (pump-probe) images showed the classic ablation mechanism from formation of a plume through collapse and recoil. The crater formation, ejection, and collapse phases occurred on a faster time-scale with the OPO than with the FEL. This research showed that a ZGP-OPO laser could be a viable alternative to FEL for clinical applications.