ENTERING THE PATENT ZONE, PART 2: SAMPLING OF THE MEDICAL LASER PATENTS ISSUED IN 1993/1994
ENTERING THE PATENT ZONE, PART 2
SAMPLING OF THE MEDICAL LASER PATENTS ISSUED IN 1993/1994
Irving J. Arons
An interesting potpourri of patents were issued to companies and individuals involved in the medical laser industry over the past 18 months. As the industry becomes more application oriented, more patents seem to be aimed at meeting the needs of the identified niches. In a rough count of the 50 plus patents reviewed, 4 were involved with delivery catheters for angioplasty; 13 were directed at dental applications, including the use of dual wavelengths to treat both hard and soft tissue and special handpieces for hard to reach areas of the teeth; about a dozen were aimed at corneal sculpting -- or the alleviation of some of its problems; more than a dozen concerned catheters for delivering laser energy within the body -- either directly at a tissue or at some divergent angle; several patents dealt with multiple wavelength outputs, control of laser pulses or dosimetry; and another half a dozen or so involved better control of the lasing process itself.
Here then is a sampling of some of the more interesting medical laser patents issued last year and for the first several months of 1994.
Advanced Interventional Systems
● US 5,188,632 (2/23/93) -- A waveguide for ablating lesions in blood vessels, incorporating an expanding lens at the distal end of the laser fiber to provide a larger ablation area -- one of a series of ablation catheter tips assigned to AIS.
American Dental Technologies (7 patents issued during the period)
● US 5,275,564 (1/4/94) -- A pulsed holmium dental laser for welding of enamel and hydroxyapatite.
● US 5,257,935 (11/2/93) -- A laser for removing dental enamel, dentin, and soft tissue using a wavelength between 1.5 and 3.5 microns.
● US 5,232,367 (8/3/93) -- A method for sterilizing or reducing bacteria in accessory canals or closing same with a pulsed laser output of between 0.1 mj and 5 joules per pulse.
● US 5,207,576 (5/4/93) -- A dual wavelength dental laser with one laser having a pulsed output between 0.2 to 2.0 microns, and the second pulsed laser having an output between 2.0 and 5.0 microns.
● US 5,287,380 (2/15/94) -- A method of generating long pulses (greater than 500 ms) from a flashlamp-excited laser, using a ramp pulse having an amplitude increasing with time.
Intelligent Surgical Laser (2 patents issued in the period)
● US 5,246,435 (9/21/93) -- A method of using an ophthalmic laser to remove cataractous tissue from within the capsule.
Laser Medical Technology (6 patents issued during the period)
● US 5,292,253 (3/8/94) -- A method of repairing an opening in a bone or tooth by applying a laser beam to weld a calcium containing protein gel to the bone or tooth tissue without harming the bone or tooth tissue.
● US 5,290,274 (3/1/94) -- An apparatus comprising two laser sources operating at different wavelengths and power levels, capable of cutting a given organic tissue, simultaneously applying the two laser wavelengths to a single body region and directing a cooling fluid at the tissue while applying the radiation.
● US 5232,366 (8/3/93) -- A tunable laser capable of producing at least 2 wavelengths for use in the mouth for cutting physiological tissue, used in conjunction with a cooling fluid.
Laserscope (10 patents issued during the period)
● US 5,281,214 (1/25/94) -- A disposable surgical probe that can deliver laser energy either forward or deflected. When a curved optical fiber is retained within a sheath, the laser energy is directed forward; when the fiber is pushed out of the sheath, the fiber curves, deflecting the energy.
● US 5,257,991 (11/2/93) -- A side firing laser fiber having a beveled end contained within a cylindrical probe, having a cutout in the side of the probe.
● US 5,249,192 (9/28/93) -- A multiple frequency medical laser having outputs at 1.06, 1.44, and .532 microns.
● US 5,242,434 (9/7/93) -- An apparatus consisting of an elongated tube for inserting and guiding a laser beam for performing a discectomy of the herniated nucleus of a herniated disc.
● US 5,201,729 (4/13/93) -- Performing percutaneous discectomy with a 1.44 micron YAG laser.
● US 5,178,617 (1/12/93) -- A scanner system for distributing laser energy in a treatment pattern using a bundle of optical fibers, with a scanner configuration at the fiber input, and a treatment configuration at the output end.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
● US 5,290,275 (3/1/94) -- Use of a transparent protective shield at the distal end of a multifiber catheter for mechanically displacing intravascular blood and protecting the fibers from the fluid. The shield also protects the patient in the event of fiber failure.
Premier Laser (4 patents issued during period)
● US 5,267,856 (12/7/93) -- A method of ablating a selected area of a material with a laser by adding a laser energy absorbable liquid to the area that enters the material via surface pores or is chemically bonded to the material. Application of the liquid is done either directly prior to or during each laser pulse, until desired amount of tissue/material is removed.
Summit Technology (4 patents issued during period)
● US 5,230,334 (7/27/93) -- The use of ultrasound for controlled localized hyperthermia, useful for inducing controlled collagen shrinkage in corneal tissue.
● US 5,214,071 (5/25/93) -- The use of topically applied aliphatic alcohols to reduce discomfort and inflammation, and to promote corneal wound healing and epithelial regrowth over a reprofiled corneal surface.
● US 5,304,169 (4/19/94) -- A method for shrinkage of collagen by application of laser energy, wherein the threshold shrinkage temperature is substantially reduced by application of a reagent, such as lysozyme, to the tissue prior to heating. This allows the use of substantially lower energy levels.
Trimedyne (5 patents issued during period)
● US 5,242,438 (9/7/93) -- The means for deflecting laser energy circumferentially by reflecting the laser energy off of a cone placed in the path of the beam transmitted out of a fiber, within a catheter.
● US 5,242,437 (9/7/93) -- A medical device to apply heat to a site within a patient's body by using both irradiation and conduction to locally treat a tissue such as the endometrium. At the operative end of the device, some of the laser energy is absorbed, delivering heat omnidirectionally, while another portion is transmitted through an aperture for localized and intense heating and destruction of the target tissue.