Purpose: Laser tissue welding has potential advantages over conventional suture closure of surgical wounds. It is a noncontact technique that introduces no foreign body and limits the possibility of infections and complications. The closure could be immediately watertight and the procedure may be less traumatic, faster and easier. In spite of these positives laser welding has not yet been approved for wide use. The problem in the clinical implementation of this technique arises from the difficulty in defining the conditions under which a highly reliable weld is formed. We have assumed that the successful welding of tissues depends on the ability to monitor and control the surface temperature during the procedure, thereby avoiding underheating or overheating. The purpose of this work was to develop a laser system for reliable welding of urinary tract tissues under good temperature control. Materials and Methods: We have developed a 'smart' laser system that is capable of a dual role: transmitting CO2 laser power for tissue heating, and noncontact (radiometric) temperature monitoring and control. Bladder opening (cystotomy) was performed in 38 rats. Thirty-three animals underwent laser welding. In 5 rats (control group) the bladder wound was closed with one layer of continuous 6-0 dexon sutures. Reliable welding was obtained when the surface temperature was kept at 71 + 5C. Quality of weld was controlled immediately after operation. The rats were sacrificed on days 2, 10 and 30 for histological study. Results: Bladder closure using the laser welding system was successful in 31/33 (94%) animals. Histological examination revealed an excellent welding and healing of the tissue. Conclusions: Efficiency of laser welding of urinary bladder in rats was confirmed by high survival rate and quality of scar that was demonstrated by clinical and histological examinations. In the future, optimal laser welding conditions will be studied in larger animals, using CO2 lasers and other lasers, with deeper radiation penetration into tissues.
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