The development of laser technology is one of the most exciting and innovative scientific achievements to have come along in the past few decades. The principles of the laser were originally presented by Albert Einstein in the early 1900′s. Since that time, scientists have developed several types of lasers which are used for a variety of purposes. One of the most recent is the ultrapulse carbon dioxide (CO2) laser that is used to treat sun-damaged skin, facial wrinkles, and scars in a procedure called laser skin resurfacing.
What is a laser?
The word “laser” is an acronym which stands for Light Amplification by the Stimulated Emission of Radiation, or light that is produce in a certain way. A surgical laser such as the C02 laser is a beam of light capable of removing unwanted tissue. These lasers vaporize skin cells by emitting bursts of radiation that are absorbed by water in these cells. Skin imperfections are rapidly and accurately treated one layer at a time without bleeding, while the underlying skin tissue is preserved. As a result of this treatment, the patient is left with a more natural looking skin.
What areas can be treated through laser resurfacing?
The laser is used to reduce tiny wrinkles, acne scars and other minor skin imperfections, especially around the mouth and eyes. It can improve sun-damaged and acne scarred skin, problems which often cause concern to both men and women.
Prior to surgery, the physician and patient discuss the goals for facial improvement. After determining the most appropriate procedure to use, the physician fully describes the procedure, what results to expect, and the costs.
Laser resurfacing is usually performed in the physician’s office. A local anesthetic is given to ensure that the patient is comfortable throughout the procedure. The area is cleansed and draped. The physician directs the laser beam toward the patient’s skin imperfection. The laser quickly and accurately vaporizes layers of skin just four or five cells in thickness. (Fig. A)
What results can be expected?
In most cases, only one treatment is needed. The initial redness fades in a few weeks to a light pink which can be camouflaged with cosmetics. The discoloration usually disappears in one to three months. The goal of laser resurfacing is to enhance facial appearance. Expectations by the patient must be realistic, and results should be anticipated as improvements rather than total corrections. Results of the surgery depend on many factors such as the size, shape, and location of the imperfection, as well as the patient’s heredity, age, and general skin condition.
What risks are involved?
There is little pain connected with this surgery and pain medication is usually not indicated following the procedure. Complications following laser resurfacing are rare; however, there are certain inherent risks connected with every surgical procedure which should be discussed with the physician. Patients can minimize complications by carefully following directions given by the physician.
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