J-Plasma vs. Laser: Five Key Differences

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J-Plasma is a new surgical device manufactured by the Apyx™ Medical Corporation and has been approved by the FDA for use in procedures requiring cutting and soft tissue coagulation.  Similar to a laser in tissue effects, the J-Plasma utilizes a stream of energy to produce the coagulating, ablative or cutting effect.  Both J-Plasma and the laser are adaptable in use from mild energy emission effects for skin resurfacing, to ablative, to blunt dissection for removing tissue.  While J-Plasma and the laser have similar applications, they have many differences that separate them in their use and adaptability.

Here are five key differences of note:

1) Energy Application

  • J-Plasma uses an energized helium gas flow over a metal blade to produce a luminous plasma stream for the surgical effect.  A laser uses a beam of light.
  • J-Plasma has two independent variables which can be controlled.  One is the amount of electrical energy applied to the stream which provides heat.  The second is the gas flow rate which causes cooling and controlled thermal spread.  A laser can also vary the intensity of energy being applied.
  • The J-Plasma flow of gas can assist in the removal of debris as well as to move fluid in order to expose the tissue below the debris for treatment.  A laser has no such feature.
  • Lasers must be very accurately controlled regarding distance from the tissue to get a consistent effect whereas with J-Plasma distance is not a factor as it is limited to a stream of 15 mm.
  • J-Plasma is highly localized due to the limited stream eliminating the problem of pass through whereas lasers can actually burn underlying tissue causing damage.

2) Colors of Light

  • Lasers depend on specific wavelengths, or colors, of light that interact with target tissue.  The laser can be affected by the different types of tissues with their different colors and tissue type, making it less effective in some cases than others.
  • J-Plasma is not dependent on light wavelengths and is therefore equally effective on a broad range of tissue types.

3) Safety

  • Protective eyewear must be worn during laser procedures as lasers can be damaging when viewed directly.  J-Plasma causes no retinal damage when viewed directly and so provides a greater level of safety to the surgeon and attendant staff.
  • Protective screens must also be used around the surgical area as stray light and reflections on metal instruments can be created which can also be dangerous if viewed directly.  J-Plasma creates no such hazard.
  • J-Plasma does not present viewing dangers during use.

4) Cost

  • Lasers are expensive in comparison to J-Plasma as well as having hefty maintenance costs, requiring regular recalibration to ensure safety.
  • Lasers usually require qualified staff to be in the procedure room at all times during use.
  • J-Plasma units are less expensive to purchase and do not require much maintenance.

5) Multi-use Device

  • The J-Plasma unit comes with a standard handpiece for open surgery and one with an extended wand for laparoscopic procedures as well.
  • The J-Plasma device has an extendable and retractable scalpel-like metal blade which can be used with or without the helium gas stream and provides the surgeon the option to manually cut tissue.  The laser does not offer this option.
  • The J-plasma device has a one button handpiece for activation and a generator allowing options to increase or decrease gas flow which will increase or decrease a cooling effect, increasing or decreasing the amount of thermal spread and to move blood and debris out of the way of underlying tissue.
  • Another button on the generator allows the operator to increase or decrease electrical flow which will cause an increase or decrease in the operating temperature and effect of the J-Plasma stream.
  • The grip on the handpiece is used to extend or retract the metal blade for manual dissection and cut depth.

J-Plasma allows for precise depth of penetration, critical for any surgical procedure.

It permits surgeons to standardize on one single device, allowing for cost savings based on inventory management, as well as the reduced need to train staff in the proficiency of multiple technologies.

The J-plasma device has been designed to meet the varying needs of the surgeon during many different surgical procedures.