Holmium: YAG (λ = 2,120 nm) versus thulium fiber (λ = 1,908 nm) laser lithotripsy

Richard L. Blackmon, Pierce B. Irby, Nathaniel M. Fried

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Introduction: The holmium:YAG laser is currently the most common laser lithotripter. However, recent experimental studies have demonstrated that the thulium fiber laser is also capable of vaporizing urinary stones. The high-temperature water absorption coefficient for the thulium wavelength (μα = 160 cm-1 at λ = 1,908 nm) is significantly higher than for the holmium wavelength (μα 28 cm-1 at λ = 2,120 nm). We hypothesize that this should translate into more efficient laser lithotripsy using the thulium fiber laser. This study directly compares stone vaporization rates for holmium and thulium fiber lasers. Methods: Holmium laser radiation pulsed at 3 Hz with 70 mJ pulse energy and 220 microseconds pulse duration was delivered through a 100-μm-core silica fiber to human uric acid (UA) and calcium oxalate monohydrate (COM) stones, ex vivo (n = 10 each). Thulium fiber laser radiation pulsed at 10 Hz with 70 mJ pulse energy and 1-millisecond pulse duration was also delivered through a 100-μm fiber for the same sets of 10 stones each. Results: For the same number of pulses and total energy (126 J) delivered to each stone, the mass loss averaged 2.4 ± 0.6 mg (UA) and 0.7 ± 0.2 mg (COM) for the holmium laser and 12.6 ± 2.5 mg (UA) and 6.8 ± 1.7 (COM) for the thulium fiber laser. Conclusions: UA and COM stone vaporization rates for the thulium fiber laser averaged 5-10 times higher than for the holmium laser at 70 mJ pulse energies. With further development, the thulium fiber laser may represent an alternative to the conventional holmium laser for more efficient laser lithotripsy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)232-236
Number of pages5
JournalLasers in Surgery and Medicine
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 2010


  • Ablation
  • Fiber laser
  • Fragmentation
  • Holmium
  • Lithotripsy
  • Thulium
  • Urinary stones
  • Vaporization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Dermatology


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