Analysis of the Therapy Laser: Features, Benefits, and Common Mistakes

Therapeutic lasers are no longer considered a ‘novel’ modality. There will be a number of practices that never offer photobiomodulation (PBM) as an option because it does not interest them and/or they can refer it to someone with more knowledge and experience.  However, some are still deciding or have it on their wish list but don’t know how to make an informed decision. The biggest pitfall would be to make a decision based solely on price and clever marketing tactics vs. clinically relevant features. With plenty of foreign terminologies such as wavelengths, joules, nanometers, and Hertz, it can be challenging for veterinarians to recognize what is essential to produce consistent results. Lasers are not an inexpensive purchase, but they are a long-term investment. And with proper consideration, they will significantly enhance clinical results and generate a healthy revenue stream.

The biggest takeaway from this discussion is to help veterinarians make a decision that works best for them, their patients, and their bottom line.

The Features and Benefits of the Class IV Laser

When considering a therapeutic laser and reviewing the features one of the most important points and easiest to remember is that the more you can get for your buck, the better! Again, we are not talking about just the pretty colors and the fancy buttons. There’s plenty of marketing out there that tries to distract you from what’s important. The focus should be on the following clinically relevant elements of the unit.

Clinical Features of Class IV Lasers

  • Adjustable power: There is nothing inherently good or bad in high-power vs. low-powered lasers. They all work by the same photochemical mechanism that enhances cellular metabolism and produces an optimum healing environment that also relieves pain and moderates inflammation. The benefit of a Class IV laser is in the adjustability of its power. Class IV lasers can be turned down to treat very small conditions and patients including small incisions, ophthalmic lesions and stimulating acupuncture points or treating conditions in ‘pocket pets’, respectively. But they can also be turned up to deliver enough energy (joules) to saturate the entire hip joint in a Labrador, the entire lung field in a Westie or even the stifle or back of a horse. It is this adjustability in power that will produce measurable and consistent results across the broadest array of conditions and patients.
  • Multiple adjustable wavelengths: There are four principal wavelengths used in laser therapy. The wavelength is the feature of a laser that dictates its function or primary use. Studies indicate that they all are beneficial. All are useful. All enhance the overall clinical result. But not all are needed for every situation. As with power, it’s not just having more wavelengths (All 4!?) but also having the ability to adjust them or turn them on/off.
  • Delivery modes: Modulating the beam frequency during laser treatments will improve overall clinical outcomes. The more variable the pulse rates the more versatile and applicable the laser product and, again, the more patients and more conditions that can be treated effectively.

Finally, and probably one of the most critical components of a laser purchase is the company behind the product. Sadly, there have already been some laser therapy companies that have dropped out of the industry. Look for a company with a long history and a primary focus on PBM. You want one that provides one-on-one training and education. Availability of and direct access to experienced clinical support should be included. The company should demonstrate a commitment to on-going innovation and growth based on the evolving scientific data. There should be an obvious enthusiasm and dedication to making your practice a successful laser therapy facility. If they seem more interested in just ‘closing the deal’, introducing other products, or bundling a package, they may not be there for laser support next month or next year when you need them.

And if you can get good results and good support, you’re going to use it more. And if you use it more, you’re going to get a better return on investment.

Why Choose a Class IV Therapy Laser Despite the Cost?

An effective, versatile Class IV therapy laser will consistently enhance clinical outcomes on a wide variety of patients and conditions. Having the right product along with the proper training will give you the confidence to prescribe the laser more frequently. Ultimately, this translates into a better investment. It is not uncommon, even in the smallest, rural practices, for a therapeutic laser to produce enough revenue to ‘pay-off’ the laser in 12-18 months.

So, don’t focus on price. Focus on the clinical benefits. Don’t focus on marketing, but instead look at the studies. Do your research, and you’re going to be very satisfied, as are thousands of your colleagues that have already made the right decision!