Successful identification of the cavernous nerves (CN’s) during radical prostatectomy requires detection of the CN’s through a thin layer of overlying fascia. This study explores the 1490 nm infrared (IR) diode laser wavelength for rapid and deep subsurface CN stimulation in a rat model, in vivo. A 150-mW, 1490-nm diode laser providing an optical penetration depth of ~ 520 μm was used to stimulate the CN’s in 8 rats through a single mode fiber optic probe with 1-mm-diameter spot and 15 s irradiation time. Successful ONS was judged by an intracavernous pressure response (ICP) in the rat penis. Subsurface ONS at 1490 nm was also compared with previous studies using 1455 and 1550 nm IR diode laser wavelengths. ONS was observed through fascia layers up to 380 μm thick using an incident laser power of ~ 50 mW. ICP response times as short as 4.6 ± 0.2 s were recorded using higher laser powers bust still below the nerve damage threshold. The 1490-nm diode laser represents a compact, low cost, high power, and high quality infrared light source for use in ONS. This wavelength provides deeper optical penetration than 1455 nm and more rapid and efficient nerve stimulation than 1550 nm.
Optical nerve stimulation (ONS) is being explored for identification and preservation of the cavernous nerves (CN), responsible for erectile function, during prostate cancer surgery. This study compares three pulsed infrared lasers to determine whether differences in spectral linewidth and/or temporal pulse profile influence successful ONS of CN. Infrared laser radiation from the Capella diode laser (1873 nm, 5 ms, 10 Hz), Thulium fiber laser (TFL) (1873 nm, 5 ms, 10 Hz), and solid-state Holmium:YAG laser (2120 nm, 200 μs, 5 Hz) were transmitted through 400-μm-corediameter optical fibers, producing a 1-mm-diameter-spot on the nerve surface. Successful ONS was judged by an intracavernous pressure (ICP) response in the penis (n =10 rats) during a total stimulation time of 30 s. The narrow linewidth TFL (Δλ ~ 0.5 nm) and broad linewidth Capella laser (Δλ ~ 12 nm) performed similarly, producing ICP responses with a threshold radiant exposure of ~ 0.45 J/cm<sup>2</sup>, and ICP response times of 12-17 s, while the Holmium laser stimulated at ~ 0.59 J/cm<sup>2</sup>, and ICP response times of about 14-28 s. All three lasers demonstrated successful ONS of CN. ICP response time was dependent on the rate of energy deposition into the CN, rather than linewidth or temporal pulse profile.