Medical lasers have become an integral part of medical practice because of their wide range of therapeutic applications including but not limited to relief of acute and chronic pain, the promotion of tissue repair and wound healing and the reduction of inflammation.
Studies have shown that when photoreceptors at the molecular level are irradiated by lasers, the cells absorb energy from the laser light. Visible (red) light and Near Infrared (NIR) light are absorbed preferentially within the mitochondria and the cell membrane, activating a number of biological reactions such as DNA/RNA synthesis, increased cAMP levels, higher adenosine triphosphate (ATP) levels, increased protein and collagen synthesis, increased cell membrane permeability, blood and lymphatic vessel vasodilation, and cellular proliferation. The result is rapid regeneration, normalization, and healing of damaged cellular tissue. Thus, light is a trigger for the rearrangement of cellular metabolism. As ATP is the “fuel” or energy source that all cells need to function and to stimulate self repair, these events then lead to a cascade of beneficial effects increasing cellular energy and health.
Despite more than 35 years of experience with therapeutic laser devices, some concerns remain as to the effectiveness of laser therapy as a treatment modality. Controlled clinical studies have demonstrated that while laser therapy is effective for many specific applications, the most common reason for poor clinical outcomes is related to low power or dosage. The previously available Class III Low Power Lasers simply did not generate the longer wavelengths of light or power output necessary to deeply penetrate tissue to be effective. The Class III or “low-level” lasers have a limited power output of up to 500 mW. The need for deeper penetration with less superficial absorption of laser energy coupled with the need for higher energy output levels has led to the development of Class IV, or “high-power” therapeutic lasers, which have been cleared for use by the FDA up to 7,500 mW.
Cells and tissues that are ischemic and poorly perfuse as a result of inflammation, edema and acute or chronic injury have been shown to have a significantly higher response to laser therapy irradiation than normal healthy structures. The delivery of a high amount of laser energy and its ability to penetrate deep enough to stimulate these target tissues is the primary reason why Class IV laser therapy has been associated with much more positive therapeutic outcomes than the previously available Class III lasers. The deposition of a significant amount of energy into tissue and articular structures within a short period of time achieves optimal cellular stimulation to enhance wound healing and penetrate deep within the tissues to encourage healing within tendons, ligaments, muscles, nerves, dermal layers, joints, and even the periosteal layer of bone. This allows for a faster resolution to most orthopedic, soft tissue and dermatologic conditions.
Before Laser Therapy
One Week After Laser Therapy
During each treatment, laser energy increases circulation drawing water, oxygen, and nutrients to the damaged area. This creates an optimal healing environment that reduces inflammation, muscle spasms, stiffness, and pain. As the injured area returns to normal, function is restored and pain is relieved. The biologic effects of Class IV laser therapy include:
- Increased Circulation (angiogenesis): Photobiostimulation results in vasodilation and stimulates the formation of new capillaries within damaged tissues.
- Immune Stimulation: Laser light stimulates the production of immunoglobulins and lymphocytes.
- Reduction of inflammation
- Pain relief: Lasers stimulate the production of endorphins, the body’s own natural morphine-like substance thereby increasing the threshold of pain perception.
- Accelerated Cell Reproduction and Growth: This allows tendons, ligaments, bone and muscle to heal at an accelerated rate.
- Stimulation of Nerve Regeneration
- Increased Cellular Metabolic Activity
- Reduced Fibrous Tissue Formation: Healing tissue fibers called collagen align themselves in a more linear, uniform, “normal” direction when exposed to laser light, reducing scarring and improving the tissue strength of newly healed wounds faster.
- Accelerated Wound Healing: Photobiostimulation stimulates wound repair. Bacterial growth (and probably viral reproduction) are inhibited by exposure to laser light, making laser treatment helpful in treating non-healing wounds, contaminated wounds and burns.
- Stimulation of Acupuncture Trigger Points
The goal of all laser therapy is to provide healing to the patient. In the case of an acute injury, aggressive therapy will result in the resolution of the condition in the least amount of time. If the condition is more chronic in nature, the laser therapy plan should be initially aggressive and then, a maintenance plan should be developed until the therapeutic goal is reached. Depending upon the condition being treated, laser therapy may be administered on a daily basis until the initial symptoms have diminished, at which point the therapy sessions can be reduced to twice a week, then at a weekly or biweekly interval as healing progresses. During the therapy session, the pet will become relaxed and may even appear to fall asleep. Because treatment is painless and quick, even the most nervous animal can be easily treated. The application of laser therapy is not just designed to manage pain, break the inflammatory cycle, and accelerate healing. It has the ability to alleviate the cause of the pain, inflammation, and pathologic change.
Currently, Class IV Laser Therapy is being utilized as a complementary and effective treatment solution for many patients’ needs. Applications include but are not limited to wound care (surgical incisions, contaminated wounds and abrasions, burns, anal saculitis, perianal fistulas), dermatologic conditions (acral lick dermatitis, eosinophilic plaque, pyoderma, pododermatitis, acute and chronic otitis externa), musculoskeletal disorders (degenerative joint disease, intervertebral disc disease, hip and elbow dysplasia, tendon and ligament injuries, trauma, fractures, arthritis), neurologic disorders (peripheral nerve injuries, paralysis, degenerative myelopathy), gingivitis/stomatitis, and pain management. Class IV Laser Therapy can be easily integrated along with conventional veterinary care to provide the best possible care for a variety of conditions that previously appeared to be resistant to successful resolution.