Laser surgery is surgery that uses a beam of laser light, rather than other instruments, to cut, dissect, remove, and so forth. The beam of light has advantages over other cutting instruments, such as scalpel or scissors. First, at the same time that it cuts, it tends to seal off tiny blood vessels and reduce bleeding. Second, it may be especially useful in endoscopic surgery, where there is not a lot of room for instruments. Third, it is very precise. Both the microspot carbon dioxide laser and the RevoLix laser used at our practice have minimum spot sizes of about 1/5 of a millimeter.
Photos of laser surgery:
Hemorrhagic polyp, treated by thulium laser (1 of 8)
Hemorrhagic polyp, right vocal cord (left of image). This professional singer has struggled with severe limitations for six months. Note the feeding vessel, both anterior and posterior to the polyp, at arrows. These will be the first target of treatment.
Hemorrhagic polyp, treated by thulium laser (2 of 8)
Using near-contact mode with a thulium laser, the feeding vessels have been coagulated, to reduce bleeding when the polyp itself is addressed. In contrast to what would be seen with a pulsed-KTP laser, one can see here hazy superficial coagulation affecting epithelium surrounding the vessels—so superficial that it will not affect vibratory flexibility.
Hemorrhagic polyp, treated by thulium laser (3 of 8)
The remaining laser energy is delivered to the polyp in contact mode, while stretching it away from the cord.
Hemorrhagic polyp, treated by thulium laser (4 of 8)
At the conclusion of the procedure, the polyp is released from the fiber. There is no damage to the vocal cord surrounding the polyp. A follow-up visit will be scheduled as "possible laser," in case there is any residual polyp that did not slough off.
12 weeks after thulium laser treatment (5 of 8)
Twelve weeks after removing the hemorrhagic polyp via thulium laser. View under standard light, at the pre-phonatory instant. Both the patient and physician regard the patient's voice as completely normal in quality and capabilities.
12 weeks after thulium laser treatment (6 of 8)
During phonation, with vibratory blur. Standard light.
12 weeks after thulium laser treatment (7 of 8)
View under strobe light. During phonation, at the closed phase of vibration, for the pitch B-flat 4 (~466 Hz).
12 weeks after thulium laser treatment (8 of 8)
Open phase of vibration, also at B-flat 4 (~466 Hz).
Capillary ectasia (1 of 3)
Bilateral capillary ectasia, made to stand out with the help of narrow-band illumination.
Capillary ectasia, right after laser coagulation (2 of 3)
At the conclusion of pulsed-KTP laser coagulation, performed in a videoendoscopy procedure room with patient awake and sitting in a chair.
Capillary ectasia, 6 weeks after laser coagulation (3 of 3)
Six weeks later; the capillaries have vanished, as expected.
Laser ablations performed in office (1 of 6)
After radiotherapy a few years earlier for vocal cord cancer, this patient continually develops exuberant leukoplakia with severe dysplasia and fragments of carcinoma in situ within weeks after each procedure to remove it, including two aggressive laser excisions in the O.R. In an attempt to avoid hemilaryngectomy or even total laryngectomy, a series of laser ablations is being performed just weeks apart in an "office" videoendoscopy procedure room. Needle for anesthesia is aiming for the spot indicated by the dot, left vocal cord (right of image)
Infiltrating anesthetic (2 of 6)
The needle shaft is seen at close range, infiltrating local anesethetic (lidocaine) into the vocal cord because the procedure is too uncomfortable to do with topical anesthesia alone.
Thulium laser procedure (3 of 6)
At the beginning of this "aggressive" laser procedure. The blue fiber is delivering thulium laser energy to coagulate the abnormal tissue. These vocal cords lost their ability to vibrate long before this procedure.
Post-surgery (4 of 6)
At the conclusion of this episode of treatment, aggressively coagulated tissue which will slough off in coming days and weeks.
Lesion (1 of 4)
Years ago, papillomas covered both true cords. After many surgical and adjuvant treatments, the disease has for several years been virtually in remission, and his voice stable and near-normal. This single, asymptomatic lesion is being addressed "In the chair" under topical anesthesia.
Lesion under narrow-band light (2 of 4)
Narrow-band light and a closer view make the lesion and its true cord extension more evident.
Coagulated with thulium laser (3 of 4)
In the lower left of the photo, the main lesion and true cord extension have been coagulated.
Finishing up (4 of 4)
To finish up, contact mode (while the fiber was touching and even spearing the lesion) has coagulated more deeply the false cord component that does not threaten voice. Pre- and post-procedure voice are unchanged and the coagulum will spontaneously detach within the next few days.
Leukoplakia (1 of 8)
Leukoplakia, recurrent, in a former smoker, several years after initial diagnosis. The patient has had this removed in the operating room several times elsewhere, and pathology has only shown hyperkeratosis. HPV testing is negative. Notice both the “cake icing” (green arrows) and “spilled milk” (white arrow) components of the leukoplakia. At this examination, the patient is severely hoarse.
Leukoplakia (2 of 8)
Closer view, under narrow-band illumination, which accentuates in particular the “spilled milk” component (arrows) of the leukoplakia on the left vocal cord (right of image).
Leukoplakia (3 of 8)
In the midst of coagulation using the thulium laser, delivered via glass fiber (right of image).
Leukoplakia (4 of 8)
The thulium laser session is done. On the left cord (right of image), mostly near-contact mode was used, and the coagulated tissue, which has gone from leukoplakia-white to coagulated-white, will slough off within days. On the right cord (left of image), contact mode was used, to coagulate more deeply and detach the bulkier lesion. An additional surface layer will also slough on this cord.
Leukoplakia (5 of 8)
A year and a half later, after a few interval laser treatments, there is a small persistent patch of leukoplakia.
Leukoplakia (6 of 8)
At the conclusion of another thulium laser procedure, using brief contact mode for superficial detachment of the patch of leukoplakia.
Leukoplakia (7 of 8)
Fourteen months after photos 5 and 6. After roughly a dozen treatments spanning more than a decade, the voice sounds effortless and has no syllable dropouts. It is mildly husky but entirely satisfactory to the patient. Note how well-preserved and “unscarred” the superficial vascular pattern of the mucosa is (arrows), after so many surgical procedures.
Leukoplakia (8 of 8)
At the conclusion of thulium coagulation of this linear patch of leukoplakia. Arrows show the line of coagulated tissue.
Leukoplakia, not yet seen (1 of 6)
A few years earlier, this patient underwent superficial laser cordectomy of the right vocal cord (left of photo) for cancer. The voice result is excellent, and the patient is being seen this day for a routine interval examination, and has no new complaints.
Leukoplakia (2 of 6)
At closer range, tiny points of leukoplakia (inside the green dotted oval) become evident. The bright white spot in the photo is just a light reflection.
Leukoplakia (3 of 6)
Still closer view, again confirming the tiny patches of leukoplakia. There is another light reflection in this view, right in the middle of the photo.
Leukoplakia, coagulated by laser (4 of 6)
Thulium laser coagulation of the leukoplakia lesions, through a glass fiber (blue-ish cylinder at top-right of photo), as seen under narrow-band illumination. The Thulium laser had been placed on stand-by prior to the routine examination, to save the patient a potential second visit. The coagulated tissue is also white, but will slough off within a few days, and along with it, the leukoplakia.
Leukoplakia, 3 months after laser treatment (5 of 6)
Three months after laser treatment, the patient has healed.
Leukoplakia, 3 months after laser treatment (6 of 6)
Three months after laser treatment, a close up view shows no signs of leukoplakia spots.
Mid-tracheal papilloma, being treated by thulium laser (1 of 5)
The papilloma is seen attached to the posterior tracheal wall, at the midpoint of the trachea. Note the areas of scarring from prior laser procedures. The dots seen indicate reference points for photo 5.
Mid-tracheal papilloma, being treated by thulium laser (2 of 5)
Using the channel scope, a blue glass fiber is extended from the tip of the scope.
Mid-tracheal papilloma, being treated by thulium laser (3 of 5)
In a closer view, the papilloma has been mostly cauterized using near-contact (not touching) mode.
Mid-tracheal papilloma, being treated by thulium laser (4 of 5)
The papilloma is then penetrated multiple times to deliver laser energy to its base. Some of the papilloma is pulled off by attachment to the fiber, and the remainder will slough off and be swept upwards by the mucociliary blanket (thin layer of mucus being swept upward) within the trachea.
Months after treatment: no papilloma (5 of 5)
Durable resolution of papilloma, many months afterwards. Compare with photo 1.
Capillary ectasia and hemorrhagic polyp (1 of 7)
Open position for breathing, standard light. There is capillary ectasia on both vocal cords, and there is also a hemorrhagic polyp of the left vocal cord margin (right of photo).
Capillary ectasia and hemorrhagic polyp (2 of 7)
During voicing, the polyp interferes with accurate approximation of the vocal cords, which explains this man's chronic hoarseness.
Capillary ectasia and hemorrhagic polyp, thulium laser treatment (3 of 7)
Using the thulium laser to spot-coagulate and interrupt the flow in dilated capillaries.
Capillary ectasia and hemorrhagic polyp, thulium laser treatment (4 of 7)
Coagulation of the polyp, with fiber tangential to the vocal cord and sometimes lifting medially during contact mode. A second, similar procedure was needed a few weeks later, only for residual polyp.
Capillary ectasia and hemorrhagic polyp, after treatment (5 of 7)
Several weeks later, capillary areas are blanched, but the vocal cord mucosa is fully mobile.
Capillary ectasia and hemorrhagic polyp, after treatment (6 of 7)
Vocal cord margin match and mucosal flexibility are best tested in high voice. This is strobe light, closed phase of vibration, at F4 (~349 Hz).
Capillary ectasia and hemorrhagic polyp, after treatment (7 of 7)
Also at F4 (~349 Hz). The mucosa of both cords is completely supple. The patient considers his voice to be perfectly normal—"original equipment."
Leukoplakia, about to be treated with laser (1 of 4)
Leukoplakia of the vocal cords in a patient radiated years earlier for glottic cancer. This disease is mostly benign, but foci of carcinoma-in-situ have also been removed twice in the operating room, yet with rapid return of leukoplakia. The patient has had no glottic voice. In an effort to avoid total laryngectomy, we are managing these visual abnormalities with the thulium laser in an outpatient videoendoscopy room.
Injection of local anesthetic (2 of 4)
Since this patient cannot tolerate aggressive laser therapy with topical anesthesia alone, we are here adding injection of local anesthetic. Note the blanching of tissue surrounding the needle.
Right after thulium laser treatment (4 of 4)
At the completion of aggressive laser coagulation of abnormal tissue. Compare with photo 1. The patient will return in a month for additional laser treatment as indicated.
HPV 11 (1 of 2)
High tracheal papillomas from HPV subtype 11. If allowed to grow, these eventually cause airway symptoms. This is one of many procedures to keep these papillomas in check.
Post laser coagulation (2 of 2)
After thulium laser coagulation, using not only near-contact mode, but also after inserting the fiber into the substance of the papillomas repeatedly. Most of this material will slough away in coming days.
Involuntary inspiratory voice (1 of 6)
This elderly man is tracheotomy-dependent due to inability to open the vocal cords. Here while breathing in, there is a posterior “keyhole” from the divots caused by pressure necrosis of the breathing tube. Still, due to inspiratory airstream, he produces involuntary inspiratory voice. General anesthesia for laser widening of the airway (posterior commissuroplasty) would be very risky due to his diabetes and many other medical problems. Hence, the decision to attempt this with patient awake and sitting in a chair.
Laser posterior commissuroplasty (2 of 6)
The posterior right vocal cord is injected with lidocaine with epinephrine, in preparation for office laser posterior commissuroplasty. F = false vocal cord. T = true vocal cord, near its posterior end. The left vocal cord is injected similarly prior to the procedure that follows.
During the commissuroplasty (3 of 6)
The thulium laser fiber is being used to excavate the posterior commissure. Note the existing divot of the opposite (right) vocal cord (dotted lines) which will also be enlarged (next photos).
Deepening divot (4 of 6)
With view rotated clockwise approximately 45 degrees, work is commencing to deepen the right vocal cord divot.
Inspiratory indrawing decreased (5 of 6)
At the conclusion of the procedure. Not only is the ‘keyhole’ seen in photo 1 larger, but inspiratory indrawing of the rest of the vocal cords is greatly diminished.
Phonation (6 of 6)
Now phonating, voice is similar to the beginning of the procedure, because the vibrating part of the vocal cord was not disturbed. Of course, number of words per breath is slightly lower, due to increased use of air through the keyhole—air wasting.