Objective: Laser technology in urology is currently used for both stone lithotripsy and prostate enucleation. Thulium fiber laser (TFL) is a novel laser, with initial studies showing potential benefits over other lasers both in terms of its effectiveness and safety profile.
Material and methods: In the first part of this review, a descriptive analysis of the theoretical concepts behind TFL was performed. This part focused on the physics and laser parameters as applied to the clinical practice. These were interpreted in the context of other lasers, namely, the Holmium:YAG laser to highlight the theoretical advantages as well as potential pitfalls offered by the TFL. In the second part of the review, a narrative synthesis of in-vitro studies regarding TFL and its modifications is performed assessing stone-related parameters, namely, ablation rate, operative time retropulsion, and safety.
Results: TFL achieved high ablation rates in most studies and performed better than Holmium:YAG laser across a range of different settings and ablation modes when the two lasers were compared. Moreover, its ability to use low pulse energy ensures minimal stone retropulsion with the retropulsion threshold estimated to be 2-4 times higher than that of Holmium:YAG laser. From a safety viewpoint, TFL poses no additional risks than other lasers, although it does potentially lead to slightly higher temperatures in the surrounding tissues during lithotripsy.
Conclusion: The unique properties of TFL have made it an attractive alternative to conventional laser techniques currently used in urology. Clinical studies are required before its application can become more widespread.