Laser Surgery

A ruby medical laser in use, 1971.

In 1962 a dermatologist named Leon Goldman came up with a way to remove unwanted tattoos. Utilizing new breakthroughs in laser technology, Dr. Goldman applied a laser to the tattooed area and, presto, the tattoo disappeared. Dr. Goldman’s experiment was the first use of lasers in medical history.

Theodore H. Maiman created the first laser out of ruby in 1960. It was this ruby laser that Goldman used to remove the tattoo. The laser left some scarring however, and efforts were made to develop more effective lasers for the removal of unwanted skin markings, including tattoos, birth marks, stretch marks, port wine stains (red birth marks that appear on the face), acne scars, and leg veins. In the early 1980s, doctors John Parrish and Rox Anderson formulated the concept of “selective photothermolysis.” This concept states that the risk of scarring and damage to normal tissue can be minimized by the use of a laser system that selectively reacts with a single target within the skin. This led to the development of the tunable dye laser, which removes skin markings by selectively targeting hemoglobin within red blood cells. The latest laser development in the field of skin resurfacing is the Erbium: YAG laser. This laser is used to perform superficial skin resurfacing for minor wrinkles, pigmentation changes, and mild acne scarring.

Since Dr. Goldman first used a laser to remove a tattoo, lasers have become an integral part of modern medicine. Probably the most common form of laser surgery is laser eye surgery in which lasers are used to remove cataracts and to correct vision. Prior to the use of lasers, medical personnel used scalpels in eye surgery, a dangerous and unwelcome technique. Lasers made eye surgery safer and more effective .Lasers have also been effective in cosmetic surgery procedures.