When should lasers be used with scars?
Lasers can be used to treat all types of scars including acne, surgical scars, burn scars, and trauma scars. We know that many laser devices can improve mature scars (older than 1 year) but the latest research will show that laser treatments can actually prevent scars.
What devices are used to treat scars?
Devices that were developed for cosmetic treatments, in particular fractional ablative lasers, work quite well on scars. The use of vascular lasers can also be used to help reduce/remove redness.
What outcome should patients expect?
Overall, most laser treatments are performed on an outpatient basis with no general anesthesia or downtime from work. Any laser treatment has some minimal risks. The good news is that most devices are incredibly safe but depending upon the device, the patient could have a little bit of pain, redness or oozing. Infection is always something we watch for because the laser is breaking down the skin barrier. Scars take time to improve since collagen takes time to build. Patients usually see results 1-6 months after treatment.
We are looking at ways to optimize scar treatments; to be better at optimizing the parameters of the devices. Recent research into early intervention for treating burn scars and wound scars shows that, not only can we get rid of scars that have been there for 50 years, we're going to be able to hopefully prevent new scars from ever forming. Lasers not only improve the aesthetic appearance and feel of the scar, but also help restore range of motion too. We hope to improve the patient’s quality of life by minimizing the pain and itching and improving the appearance of scars.
Jill S. Waibel, MD