Photothermal tissue welding has been investigated as an alternative surgical tool to improve bonding of a variety of severed tissues. Yet, after almost two decades of research, inconsistencies in interpretation of experimental reports and, consequently, mechanism of this photothermal process as well as control of dosimetry remain an enigma. Widespread clinical use map greatly depend on full automation of light dosimetry to perform durable and reproducible welds with minimal thermal damage to surrounding and/or underlying tissues. Recognizing photothermal damage as a rate process, radiometrically measured tissue surface temperature has been studied as an indirect marker of tissue status during laser irradiation. Dosimetry control systems and surgical devices were developed to perform controlled temperature tissue welding using surface temperature feedback from the site of laser impact. Nevertheless, end points that mark the completion of a durable and stable weld have not been precisely identified, and subsequently, not incorporated into dosimetry control algorithms. This manuscript reviews thermal dosimetry control systems of the 1990s in an attempt to systematically indicate the difficulties encountered so far and to elaborate on major issues for photothermal tissue welding to become a clinical reality in the new millennium. (C) 1999 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers. [S1083-3668(99)00203-8].