Laser Treatment Classes for Plastic Surgeons

By Kylie J. Peterson

The rise of laser treatments in laser clinics and med spas has led to accelerating advancements in cosmetic lasers. New and improved aesthetic lasers are entering the cosmetic medical market every few months. This quickening development curve is changing the classification criterion of cosmetic lasers every few months. Understandably, the following information is to be used only as a guideline and can't be considered to be a current.

Lasers in use by medical practitioners typically have low outputs of energy and power, and are thus placed in ANSI (American National Standards Institute) Class 2 category. Another important organization is the LIA (Laser Institute of America). The majority of medical lasers fall into the ANSI Class 3 or 4 categories with most surgical lasers being in ANSI Class 4. Most medical and/or surgical lasers are classified by the FDA (Food and Drug administration) as Class II or Class III medical devices.

Class 1 Lasers

This class of lasers is considered not to pose any hazard when operated under and according to normal operating conditions. This category includes lasers which are completely enclosed such as CD players, fiber-optics systems, or laser printers. These devices that cannot have emissions exceeding the maximum permitted exposure (MPE) under any conditions are considered to be class 1 systems.

Still, problems can occur if the laser is outside of the enclosure.

Warning labels are required for this class inside the unit or underneath the cover.

Class 2a Lasers

Few lasers qualify for this class of low-power, visible light lasers. Lasers in this class do not pose a threat if the beam of light is directly viewed for periods of time less than 16 minutes or so. Visible light lasers with a total output power less than 1 milliwatt, but greater than a few microwatts.

Class 2 Lasers

This class of lasers includes visible light lasers that are intense enough that viewing the beam into a human eye can cause the normal "aversion response". An aversion response is when the eyelids close, or the head moves in order to avoid the light. It can occur within 0.25 seconds and includes the blink reflex time.

Class 3a

This includes those lasers emitting ultraviolet or infrared light as well as visible light. All devices within the Class 1 AEL (Allowed Exposure Level) with laser output between .18μm and 1mm fall in this class. (Common Laser pointers are class 3a laser devices.)

Class 3b Lasers

This class of lasers includes the same laser output spectrum as class 3a, but increases the output level to that of Class 2 AEL.

Class 4

Lasers with any power output that exceeds the Class 2 AEL.

Laser clinics and medical spas that are performing laser treatments (laser hair removal, etc) are now considered to be treating medical patients. All of the components of regular medical care play an important role when designing a post-procedure treatment plan for the patient who just underwent a aesthetic laser treatment or the Rosacea or acne patient who just underwent an IPL (intense pulse light) treatment. When performing medical treatments in a med spa or laser clinic, you're the 'medical' skin care expert and your recommendations of skin care products and cosmetic laser treatments will carry weight with your clients. You're also a critical support to the plastic surgeons who have planned an aggressive therapy treatment for their patients. It's incumbent upon you to understand all aspects of the care you're providing. - 28520

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