Laser therapy is a medical treatment that uses a strong beam of light to cut, burn, or destroy tissue. The term LASER stands for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.
The laser light beam does not pose health risks to the patient or medical team. Laser treatment has the same risks as open surgery, including pain, bleeding, and scarring. But recovery time from laser surgery is usually faster than recovery from open surgery.
Lasers can be used for many medical purposes. Because the laser beam is so small and precise, it allows health care providers to safely treat tissue without injuring the surrounding area.
Lasers are often used to:
- Treat varicose veins
- Improve vision during eye surgery on the cornea
- Repair a detached retina of the eye
- Remove the prostate
- Remove kidney stones
- Remove tumors
Lasers are also often used during skin surgery.
James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM. Cutaneous laser surgery. In: James WD, Elston DM, Treat JR, Rosenbach MA, Neuhaus IM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 13th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 38.
Neumayer L, Ghalyaie N. Principles of preoperative and operative surgery. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 10.
Palanker D, Blumenkranz MS. Retinal laser therapy: biophysical basis and applications. In: Schachat AP, Sadda SVR, Hinton DR, Wilkinson CP, Wiedemann P, eds. Ryan's Retina. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 41.
Review Date 6/15/2019
Updated by: Debra G. Wechter, MD, FACS, general surgery practice specializing in breast cancer, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.