Date of Award

Fall 2011

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MSc)


Medical Physics


Qiyin Fang


Joseph E. Hayward



Committee Member

Harold K. Haugen


Mechanical oscillating drills and saws are used in orthopaedic surgery to cut bone and develop screw-holes; however, their use causes friction resulting in significant thermal damage. Ultrashort pulsed lasers appear well-suited to replace traditional tools as they have the ability to efficiently remove bone tissue while causing only minimal collateral damage. Laser ablation also has the added advantages of: (i) no mechanical vibration; (ii) minimal invasiveness; and (iii) small focus spot size. In this thesis work, we experimentally investigated a few key aspects of ultrashort laser ablation of bone tissue.

The ablation threshold of unaltered bone was measured using the D2 technique and found to range from 1.66 J/cm2 ± 0.87 J/cm2 to 2.37 J/cm2 ± 0.78 J/cm2 depending on incident pulse number. The reduction in ablation threshold with pulse number was an indication of an incubation effect. Using a power law model, the incubation coefficient, ζ, was measured to be 0.89 ± 0.03.

The effect of specific laser parameters and drilling protocols on ablation efficiency was also characterized. For ultrashort pulses (≤10 ps), the removal rate was found to be inversely related to the pulse duration; however, irradiation with 5-10 ps pulses were also shown to result in significant tissue removal. With a pulse repetition rate of 1 kHz, the removal rate was observed to be highest when ablating with 50-100 pulses per spot.

Larger volumes (>1 mm3) of bone tissue were removed using laser scanning procedures. A series of scanned concentric circles produced a structure ~2.4 mm deep; however, ablated side-lobes were present at oblique angles to the incident beam. A two-layer structure subsequently produced no side-lobes. The ablative precision in trabecular bone was observed to be less than cortical bone. Using mimicked Nd:YAG laser parameters, cylindrical drilling produced craters significantly less deep than those achieved with a typical Ti:Sapphire configuration. The ability to drill large-scale holes using low average pulse energies and optimized scanning procedures will alleviate the stringent requirements for optical components in clinical practice.

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