Conference Coverage

Expert shares eye protection tips for cutaneous laser surgery



Suzanne L. Kilmer, MD, will never forget the day when the center of her vision became blurry after performing cutaneous laser surgery.

Dr. Suzanne L. Kilmer

The laser light reflected off the patient’s protective eye shield and caused a photo-induced foveal injury to Dr. Kilmer’s eye even though she was wearing protective goggles. “It was like the central part of my vision was browned out,” Dr. Kilmer, director of the Laser and Skin Surgery Center of Northern California, Sacramento, recalled during a virtual course on laser and aesthetic skin therapy. “My injury completely resolved, but you may not get so lucky. You can really get into trouble with longer pulse widths and higher-energy lasers.”

The injury occurred, she said, because the goggles she wore were sufficient for 1,064-nm wavelengths, but she was treating the patient with a 532 nm–wavelength laser. “I did not have the protection I needed,” she said. “You have to make sure to check the glasses yourself before you treat so that what happened to me doesn’t happen to you.”

Dr. Kilmer, who is also a clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, Davis, said that during cutaneous laser surgery, “we want to pay attention all the time to minimize our risk.” She also recommended to make sure “all personnel in the room have had good safety training and have baseline eye exams. The door needs to be closed. The windows need to be covered, and you need a warning sign on the door that contains the specific wavelength, pulse width, and energy being used.”

The most important element of the sign, she added, pertains to the wavelength, because that determines the most appropriate goggles or eyewear to use “to ensure that you have an optical density high enough to protect your eyes.”

She advised using only eyewear designed for the specific laser wavelength being used, and to check the optical density prior to firing the laser. “You want the optical density to be greater than 4-6; you want as much protection as possible,” Dr. Kilmer said. “If you’re using a 1,064-nm laser and a 532-nm laser, you want glasses that protect you from both of those wavelengths. Multi- and dual-wavelength glasses are now available. The newer eyewear also allows you to see much better so there’s less risk with you taking it off the goggles [during the procedure].”

Dr. Kilmer recommends keeping a set of goggles outside of the procedure room door that matches every set of goggles being used in the room. “In one room, you may have several different lasers,” she said. “So you want some way to ‘attach’ the goggles to that particular laser, whether it’s a tray or some type of a coding system – some way to keep those together.”

For eye shield protection, the David-Baker lid clamp and the Jaeger plate are appropriate for ablative laser resurfacing, but most dermatologists use individual steel eye shields that are placed externally or internally. “Make sure you have different-sized eye shields on hand,” she advised during the meeting, which was named What’s the Truth? and sponsored by Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital, and the Wellman Center for Photomedicine.

“Depending on what you’re performing, you will need anywhere from neonate size to larger adult size. Some adults may require child-size shields,” she said, noting that there are external eye shields that can be cleaned after each use. “But we tend to use LASER-Aid disposable eye shields, which have metal in the middle and stick over the eyelid. You only use these when you’re working outside of the orbital rim. If you’re treating within the orbital rim, you have to use an internal eye shield.”

She reported having no relevant financial disclosures related to her presentation.

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