As laser skin resurfacing becomes more popular, enhancements in computer technology are making the procedure safer and more reliable. Laser resurfacing has almost completely replaced the deep chemical peel techniques formerly used for treatment of deep facial lines. Advantages of laser include faster recovery and lower risk of complications. Patient acceptance of this new technique has led to increasing demands for the procedure.
The carbon dioxide laser has proven most useful as a skin resurfacing tool. Laser energy vaporizes the outer layers of the skin and causes a reorganization of the deeper collagen layers. Rapid pulsation of laser energy provides a focused beam that limits damage to deeper layers of tissue. The skin generally heals in about a week, but improvement in skin texture takes many weeks to mature. While newer types of lasers are being tried, the carbon dioxide laser still seems to offer the best effect, and is the unit that we have been using for the past two years.
In the past, the main limitations have been the difficulties in standardizing treatment and the time required for the procedure. Whereas a full face chemical peel took about 30 minutes, laser treatment could easily take over two hours. The requirement for precise aiming of the laser beam could easily lead to operator fatigue and uneven application of the laser beam.
Computer scanning has now reduced operating time to slightly less than an hour, but more importantly, has increased the reliability of the treatment. A small microprocessor in the unit regulates both the amount and duration of energy as well as the laser pattern. Each application results in a field of individual laser pulses which are meticulously aligned. Computer scanning also insures that the depth of penetration of the laser beam is even throughout the treatment.
We have seen faster recovery times since we began using this technique, and while patients must expect redness following surgery, it seems to be resolving faster. Results have been highly satisfactory, and to date, we have seen no significant problems or complications in our patients.
In summary, computer pattern generators represent another step in the refinement of laser skin resurfacing.