by Alex Vitruk, LSN Editor
Our exclusive interview with Dr. Paul Sessa, DVM reveals how the successful combination of clinical excellency and state-of-the-art 30 Watt Aesculight laser technology benefits veterinarians, pets, and pet owners alike
Q: Good afternoon, Dr. Sessa: how do you like your new 30 Watt Aesculight laser?
A: I love my new Aesculight laser: it is a huge generation forward. In particular – the greater cutting power, more flexibility, considerably less char, the benefits of the new adjustable handle, the built-in clinical library… My older Luxar LX-20SP was a great laser, don’t get me wrong; however, my new Aesculight has many important features and improvements that were simply unavailable to me before!
Q: How important is the enhanced cutting power of your Aesculight – 30 Watts Continuous and 20 Watts SuperPulse?
A: It’s very important: having that capacity to achieve higher power settings is beneficial for procedures involving larger animals: areas like the back of the neck for larger dogs, areas which involve dealing with thicker skin… equine applications as well, certainly. So in other words – we are able to expedite and facilitate certain surgeries with the Aesculight that were otherwise more cumbersome to perform with the older machine.
Q: What’s the learning curve like?
A: The learning curve from Luxar to Aesculight should be minimal for most surgeons. Of course, having twice the power entails having a certain experience and ability to utilize the laser at those higher wattages, but it’s absolutely worth it for particular procedures. CO2 laser surgery in general has a shorter learning curve (compared to Ultrasound and Endoscopy, for example), because with the laser ‘what you see is what you get’ in terms of tissue interaction… It’s almost analogous to learning how to drive stick-shift: most people learn within about a week. For veterinarians, it’s about the same thing with laser surgery.
Q: How often do you use your laser (per week)?
A: We use it for about 10 surgeries per week. We’re not a big surgery practice; however, when we do perform surgery, we always inform our clients about the benefits of laser for their pets… and we find these benefits are important to them. Laser surgery certainly differentiates us from other veterinary practices in our area, and that’s a big deal. I think I’ve forgotten how to use a scalpel blade… and I’m not missing it!
Q: Has the Aesculight 30 Watt upgrade been a positive financial investment for you?
A: It absolutely has been. I first started with a 12 Watt laser: after gaining some experience, I upgraded to a 20 Watt / 10 Watt SuperPulse, and just this Summer I traded that in for the new AE-30/20. The upgrade in clinical value for my patients definitely coincides with my revenues from laser surgery going up from about $500 dollars per week to several thousand! Again, the reality is that the enhanced power and improved flexibility enables me to do more surgeries with greater speed, to cut through tissue much faster – cartilage is no problem, spays and neuters are achieved with a remarkably dry field, I appreciate the power density… in essence, client satisfaction is very high because of what I am able to do with the technology I have available. Of course, medical devices don’t come cheap these days; however, if a veterinary practice has 2 doctors or more, has a surgical suite that’s used 4 days a week, then the financial element of the decision is a no-brainer: they will be able to pay for the laser in under a year! My laser pays for itself…
Q: You have had a flexible-waveguide CO2 laser for over 10 years. In your view, what makes the flexible waveguide superior to the articulated arm? And, based on your vast experience with surgical technology, what differentiates the CO2 laser wavelength from diode or even electrocautery?
A: Those lasers with articulated arms represent outdated technology, quite simply put. I mean, how do you even compare holding a state-of-the-art, pen-like handpiece to operating a bulky, heavy articulated arm? And that aiming beam does not even come close to that flexibility, that touch that you are able to achieve with the flexible waveguide, especially with the new Tipless handle at the end.
As far as diode lasers and electrocautery are concerned, they simply cause more thermal damage to adjacent tissue. Compared to electrocautery in particular and some diode lasers, my CO2 does not mechanically traumatize tissue; rather, it is a non-contact approach.
Q: Speaking of… your 30 Watt Aesculight laser came packaged with our Tipless Focusing Handpiece. How important is this surgical tool with respect to the overall setup of your new laser?
A: It’s a totally new way of doing surgery. The Tipless handle has been great… it’s a terrific way to adjust power density without changing the setting on the laser control panel. 0.25 mm spot for skin, 0.4 mm for subcutaneous dissection, and the 1.4 mm for ablation: to have everything in one handpiece – to be able to change between different spot sizes during surgery and then easily defocus at the same time- it’s an absolute joy to use! It’s very durable, much harder to break. It’s also easier for the staff to clean and sterilize and we have no broken ceramic tips anymore! From the worth standpoint, this handpiece literally pays for itself in terms of staff time… we save about $40-$50 a day, four times a week – the time and the expenses associated with taking care of tips. Laser tips are still a great way of doing surgery, don’t get me wrong; it’s just this Tipless handle is that much better!
Q: Last but certainly not least: your Aesculight laser purchase included a 3-year Premium Service Plan from LuxarCare. You have been a LuxarCare customer for a long time, so you have substantial experience with our services. How valuable is this Service Plan for you?
A: It is a huge reason why I am using your company. LuxarCare has excellent Customer Service: I have been using your company for a long time, and I know you guys are going to take care of me. Your service is unconditionally fantastic, and that’s why I have so much confidence in owning your laser. So, the Service Plan is a very valuable part of the laser because of this assurance that I have.
Dr. Sessa can be reached at:
Salida Veterinary Hospital
4566 Salida Blvd.
Salida, CA 95368