3 Biggest mistakes doctors make when buying a therapy laser
Therapeutic lasers are arguably the greatest modality introduced in healthcare in the last 20 years. Some would argue that they should not simply be called a modality.
Photobiomodulation treatments performed with a Class IV therapeutic laser can deliver infrared photons of laser light deep into the body where they are absorbed, and the light energy is converted into chemical energy thus initiating healing processes.
Doctors of all healthcare disciplines treating both human and animal patients are realizing the benefits that Class IV therapeutic laser treatments can have for their patients. An important point to remember is that laser therapy treatments do not target specific conditions in the body. Rather, they initiate healing processes in the body.
The three biggest mistakes that doctors make when buying a therapy laser are buying outdated equipment, being misled by experts, and ignoring training and support. Laser therapy equipment is a significant investment, so to achieve a return on investment, avoid making these three mistakes.
The first mistake is buying outdated equipment. And the first part of that is to buy a laser with enough power. Early in the development of laser therapy devices most of them were Class 3 devices with power under 1/2 a Watt. But now scientists, researchers, clinicians, and laser experts agree that in order to deliver a significant dosage to targets deep inside of the body a Class IV therapeutic laser is required.
A letter written by four top photobiomodulation and laser experts in the world stated, “…an important advance in photobiomodulation treatments was the recognition that optimization of transcutaneous therapeutic parameters should be based on the photonic dose reaching the target tissue and that often requires higher doses of light at the skin surface to reach deeper tissues.”[i]
When therapeutic laser light is shined on the skin surface it will penetrate the body. As photons of light are absorbed along the path, the light will become dimmer and dimmer. The experts are saying that to deliver an appropriate dose deep into the body, a higher dose at the skin surface is required.
Therefore, do not make the mistake of buying underpowered equipment- stick with Class IV.
The second part of this first mistake has to do with antiquated equipment. For example, there are two types of laser diodes used in Class IV therapy lasers. One is called a pigtailed diode which was developed in the 1970s and was current technology in the 1980s. Many Class 4 therapeutic laser devices being sold today still use pigtail diodes.
In addition, some manufacturer’s will use multiple low-powered diodes, and add up their power to state the total power. Three five-watt diodes are not the same as one fifteen-watt diode. This strategy lowers their cost of production, but it is less effective clinically.
The more advanced type of diode is a semiconductor diode. With a gallium aluminum arsenide (GaAlAs) semiconductor diode there can be one diode for each therapeutic wavelength. The semiconductor diode can be cooled more efficiently which keeps it within its operating power output parameters more efficiently. Semiconductor diodes are sturdier and more dependable. Don’t buy multiple old-fashioned pigtailed diodes – buy a Class IV therapy laser that uses semiconductor diodes, and one diode per wavelength.
There are other aspects of laser equipment and technology. Without going into the specifics, it is suggested to simply look at the laser equipment. Look at it today and look at what it looked like 10 years ago. Is it any different? Does it look different on the shell and the case only? Were any advances made in the internal electronics, display, diodes, or optical connections? So the bottom line is, buy the latest equipment – do not buy antiquated technology.
The second mistake that a doctor can make when buying a therapeutic laser is to rely on the “experts”, with emphasis on the air-quotes. Sadly, there are many laser promoters who are given the “expert” tag – or should we say they give it to themselves, and the statements that they make cannot be supported scientifically, by studies, or by clinical experience. A few red flags to lookout for: claims that a red laser can be used for musculoskeletal photobiomodulation treatments; claims that super pulsed laser light penetrates deeper into the body; claims that Class IV therapeutic lasers injure patients; claims that a laser can be used for fat loss; and on and on.
As the adage says – always tell the truth that way your story never changes. Some laser manufacturers have difficulty telling the truth. Rely on people who can back up their statements with science, studies, and a track record of clinical outcomes.
The final mistake is to ignore support and service. Especially for the doctor new to laser therapy. Inevitably questions will arise regarding treatment. Can I treat a patient who’s just received a steroid injection? Can I treat a patient who is on blood thinners? What’s the best laser treatment protocol for diabetic peripheral neuropathy or plantar fasciitis? Can my assistant do the treatments? Buy your laser from a company that has laser experience and can answer all the questions above and more.
In addition, make sure that your company can give rapid equipment support. If you ever have a breakdown or need help with the equipment you want rapid turnaround. Once laser therapy is added to your clinic it will be an integral modality and patients will not want to go without it. Make sure your laser manufacturer can either repair your equipment rapidly and get it back to you or else supply a loaner.
The doctor of the future will use a Class IV therapeutic laser. If you have not yet purchased a Class IV therapy laser for your clinic, consider the three points discussed in this post and ask more questions. Your patients will love you for it!