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Free-Electron Laser Used in First Human Surgery

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NASHVILLE, Tenn., Dec. 22 -- A free-electron laser (FEL) has been used for the first time in human surgery in a procedure conducted at Vanderbilt University. Michael Copeland, a former Vanderbilt neurosurgeon now in private practice in Kansas City, Mo., guided a beam of 6.45-µm infrared light to successfully remove a sugar-cube-sized amount of tissue from the center of a golf-ball-sized tumor in the patient's brain. The operation took place at Vanderbilt's W.M. Keck Foundation Free-Electron Laser Center.
The operation shows that the FEL is an exceptional tool for exploring never-before-examined territories in surgery, said David Ernst, professor of physics and interim director of the Vanderbilt FEL center. Vanderbilt's is one of five FEL centers in the US that receive support from the Office of Naval Research. According to the university, the Keck Center, which is equipped to perform human operations, is at present the only facility in the world that produces beams of IR laser light powerful enough to use in surgery.
Dec 1999
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