A new infrared 'cool' laser has been developed to facilitate extracapsular cataract extraction. It has been used to produce clinically and histologically safe, effective anterior and posterior capsulotomies in animal studies. This newly developed ophthalmic laser system operates at a wavelength of 1220 nm, and has a maximal retinal absorption of only 0.1%. This is 100 times less than the retinal absorption at the wavelength of the neodymium-YAG laser. Retinal safety is not dependent on the creation of a plasma shield or on mechanical safety devices, as it is for the neodymium-YAG laser. The 1220 nm wavelength also enhances the 'cool laser' effect, so that only 1/100 of the power intensity of the modelocked neodymium-YAG laser is required. In addition to lowering the required ocular exposure this may reduce the likelihood of intraocular damage. To our knowledge this represents the first intraocular use of a laser at this wavelength region (1200 to 1290 nm). A second generation laser, using erbium yttrium lithium fluoride (YLF) as its lasing medium, is currently being developed.
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