Presenter: Stephen Barabas Bsc BVMS MRCVS, veterinary director of VBS Direct Limited
The success of Team GB during the 2012 London Olympics (the best yet in my opinion) has to be attributed to the competitors dedication and hard work, yet there is little doubt that every small detail can make a difference. So it was fascinating to hear that class IV laser therapy, the topic of discussion at last week’s webinar, was used on many of the athletes – both human and equine.
Mr Barabas led this webinar discussing the potential for Class IV laser therapy in veterinary practice. I fell into the 64% of the participating audience that had never encountered laser therapy being used as a therapeutic tool, and of the 36% that had encountered laser therapy, only 15% had actually used a laser within practice.
So what is laser therapy and how is it relevant to the veterinary profession? We know that it is becoming increasingly popular in the United States and is beginning to be taken on board within the UK. It is used across species, from horses, dogs and cats to exotics and small furries.
The vet opportunities for this type of therapy are enormous, and include use in musculoskeletal injuries, osteoarthritis, pre and post-surgery, pain management and wound management.
Now here comes the science and if you want the real in-depth ‘stuff’, the webinar is a good place to start. My explanation will fall very short of Stephen’ s as I can only cope with the simplest of approaches. Laser therapy is dependent on the wavelength of light, and infra-red light is utilised for therapeutic purposes. Infra-red is non-damaging to RNA and DNA within cells but can still penetrate deeply within tissues.
It is infra-red which causes ‘bio-stimulation’ targeting cytochrome-C, causing an increase of ATP within cells, improving cellular repair and restoration to normal function. There is also an anti-inflammatory and pain relieving effect which is not well understood but in vivo and in-vitro studies have both shown laser therapy to reduce inflammatory markers.
The power and frequency of wavelengths are important factors in considering where laser therapy can be of most benefit. Class IV lasers which have greater power penetrate much deeper into tissues compared to class III lasers which tend to only penetrate as deep as the skin. This makes Class IV lasers of greatest therapeutic value. Also low frequency modes tend to be better for analgesia and stimulating chrondroblasts and osteoblasts. Higher frequency modes are better for healing soft tissues and contaminated wounds.
Stephen went on to discuss a number publications with evidence demonstrating the benefits of class IV lasers and a number of case reports from the healing of massive wounds to the treatment of feline gingivitis-stomatitis. It has to be said the results for these cases were impressive and, although still in its infancy and with the need for a lot more veterinary based evidence, class IV laser therapy may well be an increasingly useful tool for now and for the future.
The Stethoscope (MRCVS)
If you missed the webinar it is now available to watch for free until 17th September at the following link