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A New Understanding of Multiple-Pulsed Laser-Induced Retinal Injury Thresholds

Lund, David J.*; Sliney, David H.

doi: 10.1097/HP.0b013e3182a2a837
Review Paper

Laser safety standards committees have struggled for years to formulate adequately a sound method for treating repetitive-pulse laser exposures. Safety standards for lamps and LEDs have ignored this issue because averaged irradiance appeared to treat the issue adequately for large retinal image sizes and skin exposures. Several authors have recently questioned the current approach of three test conditions (i.e., limiting single-pulse exposure, average irradiance, and a single-pulse-reduction factor) as still insufficient to treat pulses of unequal energies or certain pulse groupings. Schulmeister et al. employed thermal modeling to show that a total-on-time pulse (TOTP) rule was conservative. Lund further developed the approach of probability summation proposed by Menendez et al. to explain pulse-additivity, whereby additivity is the result of an increasing probability of detecting injury with multiple pulse exposures. This latter argument relates the increase in detection probability to the slope of the probit curve for the threshold studies. Since the uncertainty in the threshold for producing an ophthalmoscopically detectable minimal visible lesion (MVL) is large for retinal exposure to a collimated laser beam, safety committees traditionally applied large risk reduction factors (“safety factors”) of one order of magnitude when deriving intrabeam, “point-source” exposure limits. This reduction factor took into account the probability of visually detecting the low-contrast lesion among other factors. The reduction factor is smaller for large spot sizes where these difficulties are quite reduced. Thus the N−0.25 reduction factor may result from the difficulties in detecting the lesion. Recent studies on repetitive pulse exposures in both animal and in vitro (retinal explant) models support this interpretation of the available data.

*Consulting Biophysicist, San Antonio, TX 78248; †Consulting Medical Physicist, Fallston, MD 21047.

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

For correspondence contact: D.J. Lund, 4 Inwood Point, San Antonio, TX 78248, or email at

(Manuscript accepted 26 June 2013)

© 2014 by the Health Physics Society