Lasers have been used extensively in many different specialties of medicine. We at Eastern Carolina Ear, Nose, and Throat also use lasers quite extensively. The laser provides a very delicate touch and allows the surgeon to operate through small spaces to cut or coagulate tissue. It can be used to make incisions or to remove tissue, including abnormal growth.
In the field of ENT, lasers are commonly used for work on the voice box. They can be used to incise or remove parts of the voice box or for other reasons; such has removal of papillomas (benign growths in the voice box which occur most commonly in children and can cause airway obstruction). Lasers are also used for certain types of ear surgery to operate on the bones of hearing. Another use for lasers in our field is for facial skin resurfacing to treat certain types of age-related changes in the skin or for some other abnormalities of the skin.
Lasers have been previously used in surgery for snoring. This procedure is called laser-assisted uvulopalatoplasty (LAUP). In this procedure, an incision is made in the soft palate (the back of the roof of the mouth) and the size of the soft palate is reduced. The procedure is effective, but the patients have a fair amount of pain with it. This is a nice example of how lasers are not always the best solution for a particular problem. A new form of technology called Somnoplasty has been developed which is also very effective for snoring,but has dramatically reduced the issue of pain. Eastern Carolina ENT is now offering the Somnoplasty procedure, which is performed in the office. To learn more about Somnoplasty click here.
The important thing to understand about lasers is that the laser is not always the best tool to perform a procedure. Your physician will take into account each individual circumstance in each individual patient in deciding whether a laser is the appropriate and best tool. Occasionally, patients are excited to hear that a certain type of procedure is being performed with the laser, but it is important to keep in mind that the laser is just one of many tools that the physician has to choose from in treating various disorders in the ear, nose, and throat.