Background and Objectives: We seek to compare and contrast the mechanisms of blood photocoagulation under 532 and 1,064 nm laser irradiation in vitro in order to better understand the in vivo observations. We also seek to validate a finite element model (FEM) developed to study the thermodynamics of coagulation. Study Design/Materials and Methods: We study the photocoagulation of whole blood in vitro at 532 and 1,064 nm using time-domain spectroscopic and optical coherence tomography (OCT)-based imaging techniques. We model the coagulation using an FEM program that includes the latent heat of vaporization (LHV) of water, consideration of the pulse shape of the laser, and the bathochromic shift in the hemoglobin absorption spectrum. Results: We find significant similarities in the spectroscopic, chemical, and structural changes occurring in hemoglobin and in the blood matrix during photocoagulation despite the very large difference in the absorption coefficients. The more uniform temperature profile developed by the deeper-penetrating 1,064 nm laser allows us to resolve the structural phase transition in the red blood cells (going from biconcave disc to spherocyte) and the chemical transition creating met-hemoglobin. We find that the RBC morphology transition happens first, and that the met-Hb transition happens at a much higher temperature (>90°C) than is found in slow bath heating. The FEM analysis with the LHV constraint and bathochromic shift predicts accurately the imaging results in both cases, and can be used to show that at 1,064 nm there is the potential for a runaway increase in absorption during the laser pulse. Conclusions: Photothermally mediated processes dominate the in vitro coagulation dynamics in both regimes despite the difference in absorption coefficients. There is a significant risk under 1,064 nm irradiation of vascular lesions in vivo that the dynamic optical properties of blood will cause runaway absorption and heating. This may in turn explain some recent results at this wavelength where full-thickness burns resulted from laser treatment.
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