Purpose: We sought to evaluate the effect of holmium:yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Ho:YAG) laser exposure on ex vivo pig eyes and to test the protective action of different glasses in preventing eye lesions in case of accident. Materials and Methods: We pointed the tip of a Ho:YAG laser fiber from different distances (0, 3, 5, 8, 10, and 20 cm, respectively) toward the center of the pupil of the pig eye. The Ho:YAG laser was activated for 1 or 5 seconds at three different settings (0.5 J-20 Hz, 1 J-10 Hz, and 2 J-10 Hz, respectively). The experiment was repeated using laser safety glasses and eyeglasses. A total of 78 pig eyes were used. The effects of the Ho:YAG laser on pig eyes were assessed by histopathology. Comparable laser emission experiments were performed on thermal paper at different distances using different pulse energies. Results: Ho:YAG laser-induced corneal lesions were observed in unprotected eyes, ranging from superficial burning lesions to full-thickness necrotic areas, and were directly related to pulse energy and time of exposure and inversely related to the distance from the eye. When the laser was placed 5 cm or more, no corneal damage was observed regardless of the laser setting and the time of exposure. Similar distance/energy level relationships were observed on thermal paper. No damage was observed to the lens or the retina in any of the Ho-YAG laser-treated eyes or in any of the eyes protected by laser safety and eyeglasses. Conclusions: Ho:YAG lasers can cause damage when set to high energy, but only to the cornea, from close distances (0-5 cm) and in the absence of eye protection. Eyeglasses are equally effective in preventing laser damage as laser safety glasses.
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