Most of the laser applications in medicine and biology involve thermal effects. The laser-tissue thermal interaction has therefore received more and more attentions in recent years. However, previous works were mainly focused on the case of laser heating on normal tissues (37 °C or above). To date, little is known on the mechanisms of laser heating on the frozen biological tissues. Several latest experimental investigations have demonstrated that lasers have great potentials in tissue cryopreservation. But the lack of theoretical interpretation limits its further application in this area. The present paper proposes a numerical model for the thawing of biological tissues caused by laser irradiation. The Monte Carlo approach and the effective heat capacity method are, respectively, employed to simulate the light propagation and solid-liquid phase change heat transfer. The proposed model has four important features: (1) the tissue is considered as a nonideal material, in which phase transition occurs over a wide temperature range; (2) the solid phase, transition phase, and the liquid phase have different thermophysical properties; (3) the variations in optical properties due to phase-change are also taken into consideration; and (4) the light distribution is changing continually with the advancement of the thawing fronts. To this end, 15 thawing-front geometric configurations are presented for the Monte Carlo simulation. The least-squares parabola fitting technique is applied to approximate the shape of the thawing front. And then, a detailed algorithm of calculating the photon reflection/refraction behaviors at the thawing front is described. Finally, we develop a coupled light/heat transport solution procedure for the laser-induced thawing of frozen tissues. The proposed model is compared with three test problems and good agreement is obtained. The calculated results show that the light reflectance/transmittance at the tissue surface are continually changing with the progression of the thawing fronts and that lasers provide a new heating method superior to conventional heating through surface conduction because it can achieve a uniform volumetric heating. Parametric studies are performed to test the influences of the optical properties of tissue on the thawing process. The proposed model is rather general in nature and therefore can be applied to other nonbiological problems as long as the materials are absorbing and scattering media.

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