A gas discharge strontium vapor laser has been shown to operate with up to 90% of its light emitted at 6.45 μm. We have investigated the use of this laser as a potential stand-alone, tabletop alternative to the FEL for ablation of soft tissue. This custom-made laser currently delivers up to 2.4 watts of average power at 13 kHz pulse repetition rate (range 5-20 kHz). Despite a poor spatial beam profile the laser has been shown to ablate both water and soft tissue. However, current pulse energies (< 185 μJ) are insufficient for single pulse ablation even when focused to the smallest possible spot size (130 μm). Instead, the high pulse repetition rate causes the ablation to occur in a quasi CW manner. The dynamics of ablation studied by pump-probe (Schlieren) imaging and macroscopic white light imaging showed micro-explosions but at a rate well below the pulse repetition frequency. Histological analysis of ablation craters in bovine muscle exhibited significant collateral thermal damage, consistent with the high pulse frequency, thermal superposition and heat diffusion. Efforts to increase the pulse energy in order to achieve the threshold for pulse-to-pulse ablation are ongoing and will be discussed.© (2004) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.