Laser could illumine endoscopy catheters

October 7, 1992

A laser targeting device used by Arnold Schwarzenegger to wasteone and sundry in the movie Terminator is finding kinder and gentlerapplications in medical imaging. Applied Laser Systems of GrantsPass, OR, seeks partners for development of this light

A laser targeting device used by Arnold Schwarzenegger to wasteone and sundry in the movie Terminator is finding kinder and gentlerapplications in medical imaging. Applied Laser Systems of GrantsPass, OR, seeks partners for development of this light technologyin various medical applications.

ALS' visible laser module (VLM) positions patients for imagingon C-arms made by OEC Diasonics and International Medical Systemsand on Norland's bone densitometers. The technology also has adirect imaging application as a light source for endoscopy, accordingto Michael R. Lane, director of sales and marketing for ALS.

A prototype endoscopy system using the VLM has been producedby the company for an unnamed customer that is expected to announcea product soon, he said.

"Applications are being worked on right now by a few customers,"said Mark Walker, regional sales manager and executive in chargeof medical OEM accounts. "Endoscope illumination is one ofthem. It is going to be a large area for us."

ALS is a four-year-old company that began as Covert Systemsin Long Beach. The firm moved to Oregon three years ago to manufacturethe VLM. Last year, the firm picked medical as a way to diversifyfrom its firearm-targeting business.

VLMs use solid-state laser diode technology that provides asize advantage over previous helium neon laser positioning devices.ALS received two VLM-related patents last spring shortly afterthe firm launched an initial public offering. Ten other patentsare in the application process, Walker said.

Helium neon laser light is created in glass tubes that arelarger, more easily breakable and shorter lived than solid-statesemiconductor-based laser systems. They also have bulkier powersources. It has only been with recent improvements in the technology,however, that laser diodes have produced as bright a light ashelium neon tubes, he said.

The battery-powered VLM is about equivalent in cost to heliumneon systems but picks up an advantage when the cost of the powersource is included, he said.

Compactness is an advantage in using the laser light sourceboth for positioning patients and attaching to catheters, Walkersaid.

"We had a minute amount of space to place the lasers (inthe C-arms)," Walker said. "You couldn't put a heliumneon laser in there."

Larger light systems for endoscopic guidance of medical surgerycan dwarf the size of the surgical laser, he said.

"Having a targeting system three times the size of yourmedical laser doesn't make a lot of sense," Walker said.

Revenues from endoscopic applications would be significantsince the laser rides on a disposable catheter for a single procedure.Catheter disposal is necessary due to the difficulty of sterilizationafter use and related problems of liability, Lane said.

ALS was the first company to develop this diode laser lighttechnology four years ago, although competitors have come outwith similar systems since then. The firm believes it is in astrong position to defend its newly issued patents.

"Other people making these configurations are infringingon our patents. We have hired a legal firm and asked them to pursuethis for us," Lane said.