The use of a laser to weld tissue in combination with a topical photosensitizing dye permits selective delivery of energy to the target tissue. A combination of indocyanine green (IG), absorption peak 780 nm, and the near-infrared (IR) alexandrite laser was studied with albino guinea pig skin. IG was shown to bind to the outer 25 µ m of guinea pig dermis and appeared to be bound to collagen. The optical transmittance of full-thickness guinea pig skin in the near IR was 40% indicating that the alexandrite laser should provide adequate tissue penetration. Laser "welding" of skin in vivo was achieved at various concentrations of IG from 0.03 to 3 mg/cc using the alexandrite at 780 nm, 250-microseconds pulse duration, 8 Hz, and a 4-mm spot size. A spectrum of welds was obtained from 1- to 20-W/cm 2 average irradiance. Weak welds occurred with no thermal damage obtained at lower irradiances: stronger welds with thermal damage confined to the weld site occurred at higher irradiances. At still higher irradiances, local vaporization occurred with failure to "weld." Thus, there was an optimal range of irradiances for "welding," which varied inversely with dye concentration. Histology confirmed the thermal damage results that were evident clinically. IG dye-enhanced laser welding is possible in skin and with further optimization may have practical application.
S. D. DeCoste, W. Farinelli, T. Flotte, R. R. Anderson, "Dye- enhanced laser welding for skin closure," Lasers in Surgery & Medicine,12, 25-32 (1992).