Laser-induced Damage in Biological Tissue: Role of Complex and Dynamic Optical Properties of the Medium
Since its invention in the early 1960's, the laser has been used as a tool for surgical, therapeutic, and diagnostic purposes. To achieve maximum effectiveness with the greatest margin of safety it is important to understand the mechanisms of light propagation through tissue and how that light affects living cells. Lasers with novel output characteristics for medical and military applications are too often implemented prior to proper evaluation with respect to tissue optical properties and human safety. Therefore, advances in computational models that describe light propagation and the cellular responses to laser exposure, without the use of animal models, are of considerable interest. Here, a physics-based laser-tissue interaction model was developed to predict the spatial and temporal temperature and pressure rise during laser exposure to biological tissues. Our new model also takes into account the dynamic nature of tissue optical properties and their impact on the induced temperature and pressure profiles.
The laser-induced retinal damage is attributed to the formation of microbubbles formed around melanosomes in the retinal pigment epithelium (RPE) and the damage mechanism is assumed to be photo-thermal. Selective absorption by melanin creates these bubbles that expand and collapse around melanosomes, destroying cell membranes and killing cells. The Finite Element (FE) approach taken provides suitable ground for modeling localized pigment absorption which leads to a non-uniform temperature distribution within pigmented cells following laser pulse exposure. These hot-spots are sources for localized thermo-elastic stresses which lead to rapid localized expansions that manifest themselves as microbubbles and lead to microcavitations.
Model predictions for the interaction of lasers at wavelengths of 193, 694, 532, 590, 1314, 1540, 2000, and 2940 nm with biological tissues were generated and comparisons were made with available experimental data for the retina, cornea or the skin. Good agreement between model and experimental results established the validity of the model.