There are many uses for laser technology and using lasers to treat scars is one of the more popular uses. Laser treatment therapy can reduce the appearance of scars by between fifty and eighty percent and can also help to prevent recurrence. Today’s lasers can help with removing or reducing the appearance of several types of scars including hypertrophic, keloid, and atrophic scarring.
When wounds begin to heal, the process begins with inflammation then tissue begins to form and finally there are changes in the anatomy. These include collagen which is the main protein in the tissues connecting the bone cartilage, skin, and blood vessels. Scarring occurs when this healing process is disrupted, for example when too much collagen is produced forming a keloid scar.
Laser scar removal does not work on everyone. People suffering from skin disorders like cystic acne, psoriasis, or dermatitis may not be good candidates. Others who are taking certain medications including isotretinoin which is used to treat acne must stop using the medication at least six months before the laser surgery.
Laser scar removal is very effective at treating scars. During the procedure, the laser vaporizes the layers of skin exposing the new, more natural looking skin layers beneath. When this heals, the scar is either gone or greatly reduced. Some lasers can be used to treat deeper skin layers to stimulate the growth of collagen and to internally treat the scars to improve their appearance.
Laser surgery is typically performed under local anesthesia and done in an outpatient center, hospital, or a surgeon’s office. Depending upon the circumstances, general anesthesia may be needed. Laser scar removal procedures normally take anywhere from a few minutes to more than an hour.
Different types of lasers are used to treat different types of scars. Some are more effective than others against certain scars and may have benefits that are not possible with all lasers.
Acne scarring is typically treated with Er:YAG and CO2 lasers. The Er:YAG laser is an ablative laser which means it works to remove the surface layer of the skin with a sandblasting technique. This type of laser scar removal results in a great deal of healing time following the procedure. The CO2 laser is also a type of ablative laser and is actually stronger than the Er:YAG laser and as a result, more damaging.
There are also fractionated types of Er:YAG and CO2 lasers which are effective against acne scarring, but often require multiple treatments. These lasers treat a fraction of the surface of the skin by creating tiny wounds deep in the layers of the skin. Untreated skin surrounds each wound which helps to heal the wound more quickly and controls the healing process.
The pulsed dye laser technology includes the Candela and Cynosure lasers and are often used to treat keloid and hypertrophic scars. These lasers are used in a treatment that also includes five percent 5-fluorouracil injections or steroid, both of which flatten and improve the appearance of scars. This type of laser does not burn off the skin and is not considered ablative. These lasers target the deeper tissue layers under the skin instead and stimulate collagen growth.
Newer technology including radiofrequency devices and fractionated infrared lasers can be used to treat acne scars on people with darker skin. There is still not much that laser treatment can do to help reduce the appearance of keloid scars on darker skinned people.
After laser scar removal surgery the patient should gently wash the treated area with a mild soap and pat it dry then apply an antibiotic ointment and cover it with a nonstick bandage. The doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic for infection.
Applying medicated creams can help fade scars and it may help to wear a cooling mask. Oral medication can help with discomfort and pain. If the pain becomes too much or unmanageable, the doctor should be consulted.
Skin begins regenerating within four days following laser treatment. How quickly an individual heals following laser treatment will depend upon the individual’s skin characteristics, the type of laser used in the procedure, and how well the doctor’s instructions were followed. Normal activities may be immediately resumed following laser treatment and there will typically be a follow-up appointment six to eight weeks after surgery.
Common side effects of laser surgery include hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation and can be made worse by sun exposure. There is also a possibility of allergic reactions or infection, but these can be treated or prevented with creams, oral antibiotics, or medicated ointments.
Laser scar removal treatment costs vary according to a number of factors including where the procedure is done, who performs the procedure, and how extensive the procedure is. If this is a purely cosmetic procedure, it will not be covered by insurance. If the cost is too high to pay at one time, the physician may offer a multiple payment plan.
Laser scar removal treatment can be very effective, but should be done by a professional and be carefully considered before making the decision to have the treatment.