Laser photocoagulation is a surgical procedure which utilizes a powerful, very precisely focused beam of light (laser) to create microscopic thermal burns and treat abnormalities of the macula and/or retina – a process called laser photocoagulation. There are three general types of laser photocoagulation: 1) macular laser treatment; 2) panretinal photocoagulation/scatter photocoagulation; and 3) laser photocoagulation to treat retinal tears. All three forms of laser photocoagulation are routinely performed in the office as outpatient procedures.
MACULAR LASER TREATMENT
Macular laser treatment
Macular laser photocoagulation is often used to treat macular edema (swelling) which can result from a number of causes. Macular edema is most commonly caused by diabetic retinopathy or a retinal vein occlusion. The goal of treatment is to reduce or eliminate the swelling of the macula and thereby attempt to stabilize or improve central vision.
In previous years, macular laser photocoagulation was also used to treat abnormal blood vessel growth beneath the macula known as choroidal neovascularization or CNV. CNV most commonly develops in patients with age-related macular degeneration. Since the advent of more effective treatments – specifically intraocular injection of medications – CNV is now only occasionally treated in this fashion.
PANRETINAL PHOTOCOAGULATION /
SCATTER PHOTOCOAGULATION THERAPY
Another form of laser photocoagulation is called panretinal photocoagulation or scatter photocoagulation. In comparison to macular laser treatment, this technique is more extensive and of greater intensity. Panretinal photocoagulation involves the application of microscopic laser burns to the peripheral portions of the retina, not the macular region. This type of treatment is used to control the growth of abnormal blood vessels (neovascularization) which form on the surface of the optic nerve, retina and/or iris in conditions where the circulation of the retina has been severely impaired. Panretinal photocoagulation is most commonly performed in patients with proliferative diabetic retinopathy (PDR) and retinal vein occlusions.
LASER PHOTOCOAGULATION FOR RETINAL TEARS
Laser photocoagulation for retinal tears
The final common form of laser photocoagulation involves the creation of thermal burns around a retinal tear in order to create an adhesion, seal the tear and prevent development of retinal detachment. This technique had been compared to performing “spot welding.” The adhesion to seal the retinal tear forms gradually over several days.