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Infrared laser helps straighten noses

04 Dec 2003

An infrared laser that heats nose cartilage may find its way into Russian clinics next year.

A prototype medical laser device for painless straightening of crooked noses looks set to make its debut in Russian clinics next year, according to Informnauka, a Russian news agency.

The device, developed by researchers from the Moscow Institute of Laser and Information Technologies Problems, uses infrared laser light to heat nose cartilage to 70°C when it becomes soft and can be molded into the desired shape. The nose's new shape is then preserved as the cartilage, known technically as nasal septum, cools down and becomes rigid once again.

The attraction of the laser technique, which was initially discovered by Russian scientist Emil Sobol in 1992, is that it allegedly takes just ten minutes and is absolutely painless. In contrast, the corrective surgical operation which is currently used requires a general anesthetic and is often a messy, bloody affair.

The scientists behind the new procedure say that the laser heating needs to be performed carefully so the cartilage and surrounding tissues are not damaged. In addition, the duration and power of the laser irradiation is specific to each patient as the mechanical and optical properties of cartilage depend greatly on the person's age.

To overcome these problems, Sobol and his colleagues developed a medical device that automatically monitors the temperature of the cartilage and the surrounding tissue. When the cartilage has reached the required temperature and is sufficiently soft, the machine switches off the laser. "We use an erbium:glass fiber laser emitting at 1.56 micrometers," Sobol told optics.org. "The average power required is 2-3 W."

Last year, a clinical trial was carried out by Moscow State University on 110 patients between 11 and 66 years old who had breathing problems due to the shape of their noses (reported in the Archives of Facial Plastic Surgery). Results showed that following laser treatment 76% of them had improved airways.

"The device will be commercially available in the second part of 2004," said Sobol.

Oliver Graydon is editor of Optics.org and Opto & Laser Europe magazine.

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