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Beam me up Scotty: Plastic Surgeons find better results and fewer complications with new laser treatments

New York, NY – October 6, 2005 – Better results, fewer complications and shorter recovery time are the goal of the new generation of laser treatments for skin, excessive body hair and unpleasing facial and leg veins according to an article recently published in the Aesthetic Surgery Journal (ASJ).

“The use of lasers has expanded not only in scope, but in the number of patients treated and the range of equipment available to physicians” according to Barry DiBernardo, MD, author of the article titled: “Clinically Relevant Lasers for the Plastic Surgeon”. “New lasers allow more energy to be released into the skin so that the overall treatment is more effective with fewer side effects," says Dr. DiBernardo, who practices in Montclair, NJ, and is a member of the American Society for Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ASAPS) Nonsurgical Procedure Committee.

Often laser treatments are one part of a comprehensive approach to facial rejuvenation. Laser procedures are often done in conjunction with another cosmetic operation, such as a facelift or eyelid surgery. Skin care maintenance can also be prescribed to compliment the laser procedure.

Various laser treatments have emerged over time to treat a variety of skin issues. ASAPS, the leading society of plastic surgeons who specialize in aesthetic (cosmetic) surgery, offers this information summarizing the current available information:

Ablative lasers -- The effects of skin resurfacing using a carbon dioxide (CO2) laser are similar to those of chemical peels and dermabrasion, except that the laser removes skin layers by vaporization rather than with chemicals or a sanding device. In laser skin resurfacing a laser is used to remove areas of damaged or wrinkled skin, layer by layer. The procedure is most commonly used to minimize the appearance of fine lines, especially around the mouth and the eyes. However, it is also effective in treating facial scars or areas of uneven pigmentation. Laser resurfacing may be performed on the whole face or in specific regions.

Nonablative lasers -- New laser technology has impacted cosmetic surgery in the past decade. A new group of non-ablative skin lasers developed within the last five years work beneath the surface skin layer utilizing short pulses of light to reduce wrinkles and sun damage, freckles and irregular pigmentation, as well as redness and dilated capillaries commonly associated with rosacea. They build new collagen while improving skin tone, texture, fine lines and scars. Some of the first of the non-ablative generation of lasers included the Cool Touch I or II, the Medlite and the N-Lite. Newer non-ablative technologies include; Thermage which utilizes a radio frequency instead of laser energy to heat the dermis (the inner layer of skin) while cooling and protecting the epidermis (the outer layer) and the Titan laser which uses laser energy to non-ablatively tighten the face and other parts of the body.

Besides fighting wrinkles, the non-ablative lasers are fast becoming the hottest new acne fighting tool. Using the non-ablative laser for acne, it alters the size and function of the overactive sebaceous gland. It also uses its heat to kill bacteria, paving the way for clearer skin. Also, by being able to build collagen at the same time, it helps acne scarring. By adding a topical medication to the skin called photo-dynamic therapy the effectiveness of the acne treatment is enhanced by also reducing the oiliness of the skin.

Fraxel Lasers -- While non-ablative lasers are popular and demand for them is growing, competition is coming to the market in the form of Fraxel lasers. Non-ablative resurfacing requires a cooling system to avoid visible skin damage which makes it difficult to achieve benefits optimal resurfacing. Also, the intensity of non-ablative resurfacing treatment has to be reduced to prevent scarring. With Fractional Resurfacing Technology, a new ablative technology, only a fraction of the skin receives the laser light. The laser delivers a series of microscopic closely spaced laser spots to the skin while simultaneously preserving normal healthy skin between the laser spots. This preservation of healthy skin results in rapid healing following the laser treatment. Fraxel lasers strive to achieve the skin improvements obtained with ablative lasers without the associated side effects or downtime.

Laser Hair Removal -- Unwanted, excess hair is a concern for men and women, particularly among ethnic populations. Recently, laser improvements have made it possible to effectively treat patients with darker skin types, such as African-American, Native American, Hispanics, and Asian

Costs for laser surgery range from several hundred to several thousand dollars, and because it is cosmetic, insurance companies generally don't pay for it. Still, insurance coverage varies according to the carrier and the nature of the medical problem. Patients should consult their insurance carrier to determine if a procedure is covered by their policy.

When laser resurfacing is performed by a qualified, experienced surgeon, complications are infrequent and usually minor. However, because individuals vary greatly in their anatomy, their physical reactions and their healing abilities, the outcome is never completely predictable. Patients can reduce their risks by choosing a qualified plastic surgeon who has received special training in laser surgery.

The take-home message for consumers says Dr. DiBernardo, is "do your homework and become educated before undergoing any procedure." While laser surgery is generally not painful, patients may experience mild discomfort afterwards.

In the future, lasers will result in shorter recovery times, fewer side effects, and better patient outcomes. The goal, DiBernardo says, is to design lasers that are extremely safe and gentle for the patient.

According to ASAPS statistics over 1.4 million laser hair removal procedures were performed in 2004, which is up 53 percent from 2003. Almost 590,000 laser skin resurfacing procedures were performed in 2004, and over 200,000 laser treatments of leg treatments were performed as well.

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