What is Laser Photocoagulation?
Lasers have a wide variety of uses in medicine. Lasers are, by definition, a powerful, uniform beam of light with very high intensity. When this energy from the laser is focused onto tissue at the back of the eye, it burns the tissue, damaging it and causing it to scar. In retinal ophthalmology, lasers are used to form an adherent scar between the retina and the underlying layers of the eye. There are three different types of laser photocoagulation used and the type Dr. Khetpal chooses depends on what disease is being treated.
This form is used in situations where the retina has been damaged and could become detached. In this procedure, the laser energy is applied to burn the retina around the retinal tear. As the burned area heals it forms a scar that sticks the retinal tissue to the wall of the eye. Think of this procedure as the retina being spot-welded by the laser into place.
Diseases such as diabetic retinopathy can affect blood vessels of the retina causing inadequate blood supply. When the retina senses an inadequate supply of blood it signals for the formation of new blood vessels. However, these new blood vessels are often weak and can cause bleeding, scarring, and vision loss. In order to control the growth of these vessels the ophthalmologist may make hundreds of small laser burns on the retina to stop the blood vessels from growing. Essentially, the loss of retina balances the nutritional requirement and the body stops signaling for the growth of new, dangerous blood vessels. The eye must be closely monitored to ensure that there are no more abnormal blood vessels being formed. If more abnormal blood vessels are being formed, then additional laser treatment is needed. If the underlying disease, usually diabetes, is controlled, then the retina will stabilize long-term, however if the underlying disease is poorly controlled there may be increased damage to the retina causing the need for additional laser procedures.
As mentioned previously, damaged blood vessels can form in the eye because of poor blood flow. Often these damaged blood vessels leak fluid, protein, lipid or fat, and blood that will accumulate in the retina. The mass effect caused by the accumulation of fluid, blood, or lipid can result in decreased vision. If it is discovered that there is a leaking blood vessel it may either be treated though medications, or photocoagulation. Essentially, a powerful laser is used to seal the damaged blood vessel and allow the retina to reabsorb the blood or fluids that had built up. While there are risks to focal photocoagulation, it often has long-term effect in comparison to medical therapy.
What to expect after the treatment
Generally these laser procedures are done here in office using a topical eye anesthetic. The patient will need a driver to take them home from the doctor’s office after the procedure. Please note that sunglasses are recommended to protect the patients eye after the procedure. Sometimes laser treatment may cause vision blurriness and eye pain for a day or two after the procedure. It is important to notify the physician of any major changes and to keep all of your follow-up appointments.
It is important to remember that laser treatment may not restore vision that has already been lost, but if laser treatments are done in a timely manner, they can reduce the risk of future vision loss.
As with any medical procedure laser treatments have risks including bleeding in the eye, traction retinal detachments, and laser burns. While these risks are rare, they are important to consider when deciding on laser treatments.