Laser specialist Dr Samantha Hills outlines ways to ensure the longevity of your lasers and other energy-based equipment
In aesthetics, other than buying a property, purchasing lasers or other energy-based devices is often the single biggest investment practitioners will make. High quality devices can be a high cost transaction for practitioners, so when you go to make this investment, longevity of your equipment is key. Anyone who owns a car or combiboiler knows that there are certain types of equipment that need a bit more tender loving care than others. The better your system is maintained, the longer you can expect it to be making money for you – lasers can expect to last up to 25 years when well maintained and looked after.
However, if you begin to neglect your equipment, then this longevity will certainly not last. It is also essential that your device is maintained in line with your manufacturer’s unique guidelines to ensure you are operating safely and delivering the optimum treatment and results to your patients. This article will provide my top tips for making sure that whatever energy-based device you choose to have in your clinic, it has the best chance of a long and healthy life.
The most important thing to note when maintaining your laser/energy-based device is that a regular service will give you longevity and a good return on your initial investment. Much like a car, with all systems, you should adhere to regular servicing. Each laser or light device requires different servicing intervals. Intense pulsed light (IPL) systems, for example, usually have fewer delicate optical components and generally just require one service per year, but most laser systems require two to three services.1,2 Some very high precision lasers, such as those used for corrective eye surgery, are serviced every two months – be sure to check what is applicable to your machine with your supplier.2,3
Regular servicing will usually pick up any issues with a system that might be putting stress on delicate components, which means that they will likely last longer and avoid costly repairs later down the line. For example, it’s essential that optical components found within lasers and IPLs are regularly checked because over time, even tiny specks of dirt or debris can damage the coating on the lenses and mirrors.2 Regular servicing also ensures a constant and calibrated output, enabling you to deliver safe and effective treatments for your patients.4 Regular servicing will not only ensure that your device is working safely and appropriately, but you may also need evidence to retain valid insurance cover. 5-8
This is especially important should a claim occur because it serves as proof of adhering to manufacturer safety guidelines. Servicing usually involves an engineer checking all the components in your system, including the flow tubes, light guides, IPL lamps, O-rings, flash lamps, diodes and recalibrating your equipment.
I recommend to always get your device serviced through your device supplier. This is because every system is different and aesthetic engineers from your supplier will know what to look for and how to run your individual system and handpieces through thorough inspections, designed to catch any issues before they could cause a major problem. It’s then less likely that you’ll experience an unexpected device problem and you can be confident that your aesthetic operations will continue at peak efficiency.
Alongside this, should you ever need an emergency service, your supplier will be able to support you for a quick resolution. Some device suppliers will offer their clients annual service plans or packages. This usually involves a representative from the company who will keep track of your routine maintenance schedule and contact you when action is needed, which can help to avoid missed services, and therefore prolonged disruption, or avoid unexpected bills.
I recommend to never wait until the service is needed and to work in advance to perform it earlier than required. This is because you may require new parts for your machine that need to be ordered in, so you should never be a device down without notice. Doing so benefits the business by avoiding lost revenue or reputation, alongside disappointed patients, as the systems are kept maintained and regularly serviced.
Calibration is imperative to make sure outputs are correct, so the device is working within the accurate parameters to ensure a safe and effective treatment
Calibration is another key part of taking care of your device. Much like servicing, calibration is most commonly done by a technician either during the service, or between servicing if necessary, but it does depend on the device. Calibration is imperative to make sure outputs are correct, so the device is working within the accurate parameters to ensure a safe and effective treatment. As a practitioner, you should check the below functions to determine if a technician is needed.
This is vitally important to ensure a constant and calibrated output, enabling you to deliver safe and effective treatments for your patients, and retain valid insurance cover. If your aesthetic device asks for a full calibration to verify energy output, this could be a sign that something internally or in the delivery system has been affected since the last calibration. Contact your service provider to help troubleshoot the issue.
Check your cooling system levels before you start the day. Water filters may need topping up with de-ionized water, which has chemical and electrical properties for optimal cooling, or additional coolants.9 Make sure you are familiar with what your device requires. If you are doing this yourself, take care not to overfill the fluid as it could spill onto the electronic components and cause major damage. If you do not check your cooling system regularly, it will allow your system to overheat, which can result in heat damage to internal and external components, which could then result in your system to stop working.
Many devices feature a warning message when coolant is needed, however this function may not work if you are not servicing your device regularly, further reinforcing the importance of this check.
To get the best out of your equipment, check your handpieces and accessories daily. With IPLs, make sure to check the filters are not damaged check for blemishes and marks – this is imperative to prevent burning. If you see blemishes or marks on your IPL filters do not attempt to fix them yourself; a qualified engineer should sort them. Again with IPLs, also check for chips on your light guides; if you notice any contact your service provider.
The main day-to-day management is to keep the system clean and store away laser pens or IPL light guides and handpieces when not in use. With lasers, make sure there is no debris on the lens before use. Clean all areas of your handpieces, laser lenses and IPL blocks using sterile alcohol wipes between patients; it’s not just good clinical practice, but it will also ensure they last longer. Dust and debris are the number one reason for electrical and optical failures as they prevent your aesthetic laser from properly cooling, which can lead to potential component and electrical damage.10
You can do this with IPLs using a blanking plate to protect the internal filter and by placing all handpieces back in their holders when not in use.
Most lasers and IPLs are limited by shot count, which is the number of shots available in your handpiece. When used, your device will likely present the amount of shots done. When your shots get low, this tells you when your handpiece will need servicing or replacing.
An error code will often be displayed if a shot count has been reached; therefore, checking the shot count before you start your day will prevent any problems or delays during a treatment. Even if your equipment continues to work after exceeding the shot count, don’t be fooled that the machine is working properly.
The clinical effectiveness of it will almost certainly be affected and can deteriorate if you continue to use it, maybe even causing irreversible damage to the equipment.3,11 If you receive an error regarding the shot count, then the handpiece will need servicing or replacing so you should contact your supplier or servicer to check all the components and recalibrate your equipment. When errors with your system occur, consulting your device user manual can help provide guidance to solve the problem.
Another thing that will help prolong your devices is to treat it with care and don’t drop, knock or bang your handpieces. Aesthetic energy-based devices are made of complex components that need to be aligned properly.
If you drop your handpiece or bang it too hard, you can easily knock the components out of alignment. You may not notice if this has occurred, but it could cause a change in the output or performance. If you do knock or drop your handpiece, it’s advisable to contact your service provider to complete a check.
Room temperature is essential in helping keep the device cool and to prevent overheating, especially in summer months. Air-conditioned rooms are the best option to keep the device operational; I would recommend an operating temperature of 10-25°.12,13 To easily and accurately measure your temperature and humidity it might be a good idea to get a thermometer for the room.
Also ensure your treatment room is large enough so that the device is well ventilated and not covered or blocked to allow its internal fans to efficiently cool it. I always advise to consider your room size and ventilation prior to purchasing a system.
Let’s face it, today’s aesthetic energy-based devices aren’t cheap. Making sure your system is properly maintained is the best way to protect your investment. Your devices require continued, day-to-day attention and regular servicing to retain valid insurance cover and ensure it operates at peak performance for years to come.