Laser photocoagulation is one of a number of methods currently under investigation for the endoscopic treatment of gastrointestinal haemorrhage. The Argon ion and Neodymium Yttrium Aluminium Garnet (Nd YAG) lasers are theoretically suitable as the beam from each may be transmitted via a flexible fibre. Argon laser photocoagulation has been shown to be effective and we have elucidated which factors determine its safety and efficacy. Studies on normal canine gastric mucosa showed that the depth of tissue damage depended chiefly on the total incident laser energy on any one spot, and that below 50 J the risk of perforation was extremely low. The energy density was much less important. The haemostatic effect depended more on the laser power. In artificial bleeding gastric ulcers in heparinised dogs the most effective level was 7--9 W, at which 22 out of 23 ulcers (96%) stopped bleeding completely, compared with one out of 12 controls. Photocoagulation was achieved in these cases with energies well within the safe limits. The procedure was effective endoscopically, and these results justify early clinical studies in man.
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