Many medical applications involving lasers rely upon the generation of heat within the tissue for the desired therapeutic effect. Determination of the absorbed light energy in tissue is difficult in many cases. Although UV wavelengths of the excimer laser and 10.6 μm wavelength of the CO2 laser are absorbed within the first 20 μm of soft tissue, visible and near infrared wavelengths are scattered as well as absorbed. Typically, multiple scattering is a significant factor in the distribution of light in tissue and the resulting heat source term. An improved model is presented for estimating heat generation due to the absorption of a collimated (axisymmetric) laser beam and scattered light at each point r and z in tissue. Heat generated within tissue is a function of the laser power, the shape and size of the incident beam and the optical properties of the tissue at the irradiation wavelength. Key to the calculation of heat source strength is accurate estimation of the light distribution. Methods for experimentally determining the optical parameters of tissue are discussed in the context of the improved model.

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