A series of direct carotid end-to-end laser anastomosis vs. direct manual suture was carried out on a series of 70 Wistar rats (mean weight 260 g). Both common carotids (0.8-1.2 mm) were sectioned and repaired. The left side (n = 70) was submitted to laser-assisted microvascular anastomosis (LAMA) performed by means of a diode laser device (wavelength 830 nm and power output 3 W in continuous wave) without chromophore. The right side (n = 70) underwent a control manual suture (CMA). The diode laser energy was delivered into a micromanipulator coupled to a Zeiss operating microscope with a focused spot of 300 mum in diameter. After placement of three 10.0 stitches for edge coaptation, the LAMA was achieved using laser shots (average 3) of 500 mW power, 4.5 s duration, and 700 W/cm2 irradiance each. The CMA was performed by means of six 10.0 stitches. The good vascular flow was confirmed by Doppler spectral analysis (n = 466) carried out from day 0 to day 90. Light and scanning electron microscopy (n = 82) showed that re-endothelialization after LAMA was gaining ground on day 3, whereas collagenous network developed in the media scar by day 10. In contrast, after CMA the arterial repair was delayed on day 20, inducing a media fibrotic scar. The patency rate was 93% in both anastomoses. The shorter operating time (13 min for LAMA vs. 22 min for CMA) and the noncontact laser technique are the main intraoperative advantages. The technical benefits of the diode laser are pointed out. (C) 1994 Wiley-Liss, Inc.