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Product Code: ILSC2009_1202

Non-beam Hazards of the Ophthalmic Excimer Laser
Angela Monks, Health Protection Agency; Leeds Great Britain
Presented at ILSC 2009

The excimer laser, with a gas mixture of ArF, is widely used in refractive eye surgery. Over the past decade the excimer laser has become the preferred choice for treatment; the ultraviolet laser beam at 193 nm is able to remove microscopic amounts of tissue from the cornea via a photochemical interaction, resulting in a huge improvement in results from refractive eye surgery compared with previous techniques. The use of the excimer laser for ophthalmic surgery introduces a number of hazards, many being non-beam hazards.

The non-beam hazards are discussed. These non-beam hazards include: fluorine gas, which forms part of the laser active medium, plume from both the treatment site and fluence test card, and electromagnetic interference.

It is concluded that the most significant non-beam hazard is fluorine gas. An incident at an ophthalmic clinic involving a fluorine gas leak highlights the need for a sufficient risk assessment to be conducted and contingency plans to be put into place. Basic gas law calculations support this by showing that a fluorine gas leak in an ophthalmic clinic may cause exposure limit values to be exceeded.

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