Even though the first use of lasers in medicine was reported by Goldman in 1962-and then in 1963 for experimental cardiovascular plaque ablation-it is the Aesthetic and Ophthalmic applications that historically pushed the use and adoption of photons in medicine. In addition to invasive and non-invasive cosmetic treatments and ophthalmic therapies, urology is another mature market today using lasers and optical fiber probes. In this market lasers and optical fibers are used in transurethral laser therapy for benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) and kidney stone ablation.
What are the next big emerging markets? Groups and organizations in the public and private sectors are developing systems that incorporate an optical fiber probe for diagnostic and therapeutic purposes. Many of these applications target disposable probes at high volume procedures. This creates a challenge for device manufacturers and their suppliers to produce, on a repeatable basis, an optical probe requiring crucial complex engineering and control at a price point the market (and insurance companies) can bear. In vivo probes for optical coherence tomography are already on the market. Other examples of emerging applications include: cancer detection; tumor ablation; other soft tissue ablation such as meniscuses; probes for sensing and imaging; and the incorporation of optical fiber in existing medical devices found in MRI suites, radiation suites, and X-Ray suites.