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Thermodynamic response of soft biological tissues to pulsed infrared-laser irradiation.


The physical mechanisms that achieve tissue removal through the delivery of short pulses of high-intensity infrared laser radiation, in a process known as laser ablation, remain obscure. The thermodynamic response of biological tissue to pulsed infrared laser irradiation was investigated by measuring and analyzing the stress transients generated by Q-sw Er:YSGG (lambda = 2.79 microns) and TEA CO2 (lambda = 10.6 microns) laser irradiation of porcine dermis using thin-film piezoelectric transducers. For radiant exposures that do not produce material removal, the stress transients are consistent with thermal expansion of the tissue samples. The temporal structure of the stress transients generated at the threshold radiant exposure for ablation indicates that the onset of material removal is delayed with respect to irradiation. Once material removal is achieved, the magnitude of the peak compressive stress and its variation with radiant exposure are consistent with a model that considers this process as an explosive event occurring after the laser pulse. This mechanism is different from ArF- and KrF-excimer laser ablation where absorption of ultraviolet radiation by the collagenous tissue matrix leads to tissue decomposition during irradiation and results in material removal via rapid surface vaporization. It appears that under the conditions examined in this study, explosive boiling of tissue water is the process that mediates the ablation event. This study provides evidence that the dynamics and mechanism of tissue ablation processes can be altered by targeting tissue water rather than the tissue structural matrix.

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