What is the role of selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) in the treatment of primary open-angle glaucoma (POAG)?

Updated: Mar 16, 2020
  • Author: Kristin Schmid Biggerstaff, MD; Chief Editor: Inci Irak Dersu, MD, MPH  more...
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Selective laser trabeculoplasty (SLT) uses a Q-switched 532 Nd:YAG laser to selectively target pigmented cells of the trabecular meshwork in a nonthermal manner, increasing fluid outflow and thereby lowering IOP.

The 3-nanosecond high-energy specific wavelength of light used induces the same cell replacement mechanism as traditional ALT but without the destructive burning and obliteration of structural support tissue in the meshwork. The short pulse of the laser does not allow time for heat to spread to other cells. SLT delivers just enough energy to the trabecular meshwork to target specific melanin-rich cells, without incurring collateral thermal damage and scarring to adjacent nonpigmented trabecular meshwork cells and underlying trabecular beams. When treated with SLT, a primarily biologic response is induced in the trabecular meshwork that involves the release of cytokines that trigger macrophage recruitment as well as other changes leading to IOP reduction.

The laser beam bypasses surrounding tissue leaving it undamaged by light. Unlike ALT, SLT can be repeated several times. Whereas patients treated with ALT can receive only 2 treatments in their lifetime, patients treated with SLT can receive more than 2 lifetime treatments.

SLT requires a specially designed laser, as follows:

  • A short pulse to allow for thermal relaxation

  • Precise wavelength for optimal melanin absorption

  • Sufficient energy to heat melanin to the point that it releases cytokines

  • Sufficient spot size to ensure full coverage at the trabecular meshwork

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