This new study was led by Dr. Jeffrey Kenkel, vice chairman of plastic surgery, director of the Clinical Center for Cosmetic Laser Treatment and chief of plastic surgery at the Veterans Administration Medical Center at Dallas, who is among the few surgeons using a new carbon dioxide-based fractional laser that offers quicker recovery time while going deeper into the skin to help reduce wrinkles, tighten surface structures and treat pigmentation differences.
"UT Southwestern was one of only two U.S. centers to receive the Food and Drug Administration-approved laser for initial testing before making it available for patients. Plastic surgeons at UT Southwestern have completed testing and are now starting to use the new carbon dioxide-based fractional laser, which combines minute focused columns of laser-induced injury with heat deposition for less skin damage and quicker recovery time," said Kenkel.
He added: "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."
"We can vary the distance between the holes, which has an effect on how much tissue we choose to treat. The treatment parameters are determined by what we are trying to accomplish for each of our patients."
He also said that 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. There are lots of new lasers that come out on the market. We take a scientific approach when investigating new laser devices. 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," said Dr. Kenkel.
Made by California-based Lumenis Device Technologies, this latest model has a large arm and two heads and can be used on a variety of conditions, including wrinkle removal, acne scarring, alleviating dark pigmentation, and other conditions that the plastic surgery group is investigating.
Previous carbon dioxide-based lasers were popular in the early 1990s, but faded from favour due to long recovery periods, sometimes spanning several months, and pigmentation inequities that resulted in loss of pigmentation in the patient's skin after treatment.
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 dollars to 3,000 dollars and are usually considered cosmetic. The popularity of out-patient, office-based laser procedures has been rising as lasers have improved.
"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. 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," said Dr. Kenkel