In the United States alone, treatment of soft tissue injuries as well as acute and chronic pain exceeds $100 billion in annual services. Some laser treatments are now covered by insurance, making laser therapy effective and lucrative for medical practitioners.
Below is a list of 10 key points to help you make a smarter laser purchase.
1. Average Power
Average power is measured in watts (W) and quantifies the photons laser light energy delivers per second. Too little average power and too few photons – results will fall short. Average power also helps determine treatment time. Lower average power generally means longer treatment time. Conversely, average power that is too high, especially in continuous wave (CW) lasers, creates a thermal risk.
2. Pulse Power
Measured in watts (W), pulse power (aka peak power) represents the maximum power of the laser. Pulse power has different clinical relevance according to whether the wavelength is a continuous or superpulsed wavelength. High pulse power of a superpulsed laser represents the potential to deliver energy deeply without thermal risk. The combination of wavelength and pulse power drive tissue penetration. Consider the type and depth of tissues to be treated when choosing average and pulse powers of a laser for your practice.
3. Pulse Rates
Pulsing is a way to manage the delivery of light energy and is measured in pulses per second or hertz (Hz). Continuous Wave (CW) laser emits with a pulse duration of thousandths of a second. The result is the heat buildup characteristic of CW wavelengths. Superpulsed laser is exponentially finer, with emissions at billionths of a second with virtually no heat accumulation. Research identifies pulse rates as a key factor in “turning on” genes for cellular regeneration and tissue repair. When the laser can safely and effectively reach the area to be treated, deliver the correct energy wavelength and generate a pulse rate greater than 30 kHz (demonstrated to enhance tissue repair), physiological issues are resolved at the source.
Measured in nanometers (nm), which are billionths of a meter. Wavelength selection is determined by the primary type of tissue (e.g., nerve, muscle or bone) to be repaired. The therapeutic range is 600-1100 nm. The most versatile lasers are configured with a combination of superpulsed and continuous wave wavelengths. Beware the deceptive marketing of “patented wavelengths”. Wavelengths are organic characteristics of light frequencies and cannot be patented.
5. Tissue Depth
The type of tissue, whether predominantly skin, muscle, bone, nerve or cartilage, responds differently to different wavelengths. Any laser wavelength in the 600-1100 nm therapeutic range will benefit most tissues, but specific wavelengths tend to be preferentially absorbed by three tissue types:
• vascular tissue
• avascular or less vascular tissue
• nerve tissue
6. Body Size
Patient size and body habitus also drive the power configuration requirements for a laser. If your practice treats many large and/or muscular patients, you may prefer reduced treatment times using models with higher superpulsed peak powers and higher continuous wave wattages. Those powers, when combined with a high pulse rate and focused to the correct depth of penetration, safely and gently regenerate tissue and reduce pain and inflammation.
7. Available Space
If treatment rooms are short on space or if easy mobility is desired, choose a smaller desktop model over a larger wheeled model. Multiple peak power and wavelength configurations are available. A 45 W pulse power model also offers the options of interchangeable treatment lenses.
Offering protection against manufacturer defects and design flaws, a warranty reflects the confidence of the warrantor in their product. If a company provides a short warranty you may be purchasing a used laser, an outdated model or a poorly made one. A laser with a warranty of 4 or more years reflects superior technology, well designed parts and a company that trusts the device will stand the test of time.
9. Post-Sale Support
Some laser distributors disappear after the sale. Verify the availability of support with device operations, troubleshooting or continuing education. A few offer marketing materials that help integrate laser therapy into your practice. Find vendors who offer on going training, marketing, technical and continuing education support.
10. Return on Investment
Success comes from helping patients while achieving a solid return on your investment. You want the laser to have the ability to treat a variety of patients and conditions, be FDA cleared and offer ease of use. The result will show in the recommendations, testimonials and clinical reputation you build. The same should be shown by the laser company you choose. Ask how long their lasers have existed. Research the published outcomes. Look for the most advanced technology (not to be confused with bells and whistles) available. Consider the lifespan of the laser.
Since arriving in 1999 to the U.S. market, therapeutic lasers have proliferated, offering choices to the discerning and informed practitioner. There are floor models, hand-held models, desktop models and portable models. Some generate a light suitable for a cat toy, others generate enough heat to singe our skin on the quest for eternal beauty. Choose a therapeutic laser for how it will best serve your patient and your practice, delivering results based on science and technology that effectively support the body’s best repair and relief.