Lasers for stone treatment: how safe are they?

To update laser lithotripsy advances in regard to new laser types and technologies as well as review contemporary laser safety concerns.

The high prevalence of urolithiasis and the continuing miniaturization of scopes has encouraged the growth of laser lithotripsy technology. The holmium:yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Ho:YAG) laser has been used for over 20 years in endourology and has been extensively studied. Holmium laser power output is affected by a number of factors, including pulse energy, pulse frequency, and pulse width. Several recent experimental studies suggest that the new dual-phase Moses 'pulse modulation' technology, introduced in high-power laser machines, carries a potential to increase stone ablation efficiency and decrease stone retropulsion. A newly introduced thulium fiber laser (TFL) has been adapted to a very small laser fiber size and is able to generate very low pulse energy and very high pulse frequency. Both of these technologies promise to play a larger role in laser lithotripsy in the near future. However, more experimental and clinical studies are needed to expand on these early experimental findings. Even though laser lithotripsy is considered safe, precautions should be taken to avoid harmful or even catastrophic adverse events to the patient or the operating room staff.

The Ho:YAG laser remains the clinical gold standard for laser lithotripsy for over the last two decades. High-power Ho:YAG laser machines with Moses technology have the potential to decrease stone retropulsion and enhance efficiency of laser ablation. The new TFL has a potential to compete with and perhaps even replace the Ho:YAG laser for laser lithotripsy. Safety precautions should be taken into consideration during laser lithotripsy.

Current opinion in urology. 2019 Dec 27 [Epub ahead of print]

Yasser A Noureldin, Panagiotis Kallidonis, Evangelos N Liatsikos

Department of Urology, University Hospital of Patras, Patra, Greece.