In 1958, Bell Labs’ Schawlow and Townes first predicted the operation of an optical laser (“Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation”), but had not yet built a working model. Two years later, at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, CA, Maiman was the first to create the world’s first functioning laser.
In 1961, the Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital used a laser on a human patient for the first time, destroying a retinal tumor. In 1963, the first medical laser devices, laser photocoagulators, were sold commercially
(at prices of ~ $5500 each) in the U.S. by two companies, American Optical and Optics Technology. Eventually, Coherent captured this market by replacing the ruby laser source with argon.
In the last five decades, lasers have been used in millions of procedures, including eye, cosmetic, gynecological, urology, laparoscopic, general surgery and dentistry. Specific procedures and numbers include:
- Approximately 700,000 Lasik procedures were performed in 2008
- More than 900,000 laser hair removal procedures in 2011
- More than 400,000 IPL laser treatment procedures in 2011
Current developments include the application of femtosecond laser systems in ophthalmology and other medical applications.
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