The holmium:YAG laser fragments stones of all compositions effectively. However, damage to ureteral guidewires by the laser has been described, including in one of our own patients, in whom such damage resulted in morbidity. The purpose of this study was to characterize the interaction of Ho:YAG energy with guidewires in vitro. Seven ureteral guidewires were tested in a waterbath. The 365-μm Ho:YAG laser fiber was placed at defined distances (0, 1, 2, 4, and 5 mm) from the guidewire. All guidewires were tested at angles of 0°, 45°, and 70°from normal incidence. The minimum energy setting that resulted in structural damage to the guidewires was detected by endoscopic video monitoring. All guidewires were susceptible to Ho:YAG laser damage at modest energy settings. The energy required to produce visual damage varied inversely with the square of the distance of the laser fiber from the guidewire. At a distance of 5 mm, none of the guidewires was damaged, even at energy settings of 2.8 J (the maximum output from the laser). The energy required to induce guidewire damage varied with the inverse of the cosine of the incident angle. The results demonstrate that no guidewire is immune from Ho:YAG laser damage when the fiber and guidewire are in contact. Caution must be exercised when operating the Ho:YAG laser near a guidewire, and guidewire integrity should be assured by the surgeon. Generally, the energy required to induce guidewire damage exceeded lithotripsy levels at distances > 1 mm and with higher incident angles, implying a reasonable margin of safety during ureteroscopy. The pattern of energy thresholds required to induce damage with respect to distance and incident angle suggests that the mechanism of Ho:YAG lithotripsy is thermal.
ASJC Scopus subject areas