Resurfacing of atrophic facial acne scars with a high-energy, pulsed carbon dioxide laser

T S Alster, T B West
Dermatologic Surgery: Official Publication for American Society for Dermatologic Surgery [et Al.] 1996, 22 (2): 151-4; discussion 154-5

BACKGROUND: Treatment of atrophic acne scars has been limited to the use of such traditional treatments as dermabrasion and chemical peels for many years. Recently, the addition of high-energy, pulsed carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers to the treatment armentarium has created renewed enthusiasm for cutaneous resurfacing due to their ability to create specific thermal injury with limited side effects.

OBJECTIVE: To determine the effectiveness of a high-energy, pulsed CO2 laser in eliminating atrophic facial scars and to observe for side effects.

METHODS: Fifty patients with skin phototypes I-V and moderate to severe atrophic facial acne scars were included in the study. Each patient received one high-energy, pulsed CO2 laser treatment using identical laser parameters by the same experienced laser surgeon. Baseline and 1-, 4-, 8-, 12-, and 24-week postoperative photographs and clinical assessments were obtained in all patients. Textural analysis of skin before and after laser irradiation were obtained in 10 patients to confirm clinical impressions. Clinical evaluations were conducted independently by two blinded assessors.

RESULTS: There was an 81.4% average clinical improvement observed in acne scars following laser treatment. Skin texture measurements of laser-irradiated scars were comparable to those obtained in normal adjacent skin. Side effects were limited to transient hyperpigmentation lasting an average of 3 months in 36% of patients. Prolonged erythema (2 months average) was usual and considered to be a normal healing response. No hypertrophic scarring was observed following laser treatment.

CONCLUSION: High-energy, pulsed CO2 laser treatment can safely and effectively improve or even eliminate atrophic facial scars and provides many benefits over traditional treatment methods.

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