Evaluation of retinal exposures from repetitively pulsed and scanning lasers

W. T. Ham, H. A. Mueller, M. L. Wolbarsht, D. H. Sliney

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Threshold damage in the macaque retina is shown to be equivalent for the argon-krypton (Ar-Kr) 647 nm and the helium-neon (He-Ne) 632.8-nm lines for exposures to continuous wave (CW) radiation from 1 to 1,000 s. This equivalence allows interpolation from experiments with 647-nm exposures at power levels that are unavailable with the He-Ne laser. To simulate He-Ne laser scanner exposures, 40-μs pulses of 647-nm light transmitted through a revolving disk with holes in the periphery were used to expose the retinas of monkeys under deep anesthesia at pulse repetition frequencies (PRFs) of 100, 200, 400, and 1,600 Hz for exposure durations of 1, 10, 100, and 1,000 s. The thresholds between laser exposure at 488 nm (Ar-Kr) and between laser exposure at 647 nm (Kr) are compared to assess thermal versus photochemical effects on the retina. The threshold for 488-nm pulses was consistently lower than that for 647-nm pulses at all PRFs and exposure times. The difference in thresholds increased with exposure time and PRF. The sharp decreases in 488-nm thresholds at 100-s exposure times for each PRF can be interpreted as a basically photochemical effect. The radiant exposure required for damage at 647 nm was several orders of magnitude above the radiant exposure from typical He-Ne scanner applications. From the similarity of the macaque retina to the human retina, it is concluded that no realistic ocular hazard exists from exposure to scanning laser systems of 1 mW or less, operating at higher than 100 Hz.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)337-344
Number of pages8
JournalHealth Physics
Issue number3
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health, Toxicology and Mutagenesis
  • Epidemiology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • General Environmental Science
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health
  • Toxicology
  • Physics and Astronomy (miscellaneous)


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