New “Fractional Laser” Reduces Wrinkles, Acne Scarring, Removes Tattoos

Plastic surgeons at UT Southwestern Medical Center are using a new kind of laser that penetrates deeper into the skin to reduce wrinkles, treat pigmentation differences, and tighten surface structures.

The FDA approved the laser for only two U.S. Centers to test for general patient use, of which UT Southwestern was one. Testing has been completed by UT plastic surgeons who are now using the new carbon dioxide-based fractional laser. It combines minute focused columns of laser-induced injury with heat disposition, which reduces skin damage and aids quicker recovery tme.

"Fractional lasers are like aerating your lawn, where you have a bunch of holes in your lawn, but you have normal lawn in between. This allows for more rapid healing because intact, normal skin bridges the gap between the laser-induced injured skin," said Dr. Jeffrey Kenkel, vice chairman of plastic surgery whose research involves the effects of lasers on tissue.

Dr. Kenkel, director of the Clinical Center for Cosmetic Laser Treatment and chief of plastic surgery at the Veterans Administration Medical Center at Dallas, said the technology potentially could be one of the last decade’s biggest advancements in the laser world.

"What’s appealing about carbon dioxide lasers is that not only can you get surface and deeper skin changes, but you get heat that’s deposited into the skin resulting in improvement in wrinkles and skin tightening," said Dr. Kenkel. "We evaluate the laser on tissue that has either been removed from patients or that we plan on removing so we can determine what effect it’s going to have before we start treating patients clinically."

This latest laser was made by Lumenis Device Technologies. It has a larg arm and two heads an can be used on a wide range of conitions—wrinkle removal, acne scarring, alleviating dark pigmentation, and other conditions. UT Southwestern has more than 200 lasers available, and is a world leader in offering patients laser treatment options.

The new laser treatments are office-based procedures done on an out-patient basis, but may require some local or regional anesthetic, with recovery time related to the type of procedure. In most instances recovery is between three and five days. Depending on what’s required, procedure costs can range from $500 to $3,000 and are usually considered cosmetic.

"There are a lot of patients who would rather not have surgery and who are looking for things to improve their appearance without surgical down time," Dr. Kenkel said. "In addition, there’s a whole group of younger patients who are looking for improvement who are not necessarily in need of surgery but perhaps would benefit from some of the lesser invasive procedures that we have to offer."

Americans spent more than $12 billion last year on cosmetic procedures, involving 11.5 million surgical and nonsurgical procedures, according to the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery. Nonsurgical procedures, which include laser treatments, accounted for about 83 percent of those procedures.

Source: UT Southwestern Medical Center

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