From the Journals

Nonablative laser adds benefits to low-dose isotretinoin as treatment for moderate to severe acne



A combination of low-dose isotretinoin and nonablative fractional laser (NAFL) was a safe and effective treatment for moderate to severe acne and also improved acne scars in a small Chinese study, investigators reported.

In the randomized, split-face, controlled study of 18 adult Asian patients with moderate to severe acne, low-dose isotretinoin alone effectively controlled papule and pustule acne lesions, whereas NAFL had the additional effect of reducing the number of comedones and improving boxcar atrophic scars, reported Weihui Zeng, MD, and associates from the department of dermatology at the Second Affiliated Hospital of Xi’an Jiaotong University, Shanxi, China.

The authors noted that many patients seen at their clinic cannot tolerate a 20 mg/day dose of isotretinoin because of severe mucocutaneous side effects and that treatment with nonablative lasers, which – in contrast to ablative lasers – use infrared radiation to penetrate the skin deeply and thereby selectively heat dermal tissue while sparing the epidermis, could be a treatment option for these patients.

Therefore, they set out to investigate a treatment plan combining 1,550-nm NAFL with low-dose isotretinoin (10 mg/day) in the 18 patients (mean age, 24 years; skin types II-IV) attending their outpatient dermatology clinic. Three laser treatments were administered at monthly intervals to one side of the face, with the other side of the face serving as a control. Each patient was on low-dose isotretinoin for 30-45 days before laser treatment. A revised Leeds acne-grading system was used.

At follow-up after the third treatment – 3 months after the first laser treatment – both sides of the face showed significant recovery in all participants, but there was greater improvement on the laser-treated side. The mean Leeds acne-grading scores decreased from 10.6 at baseline to 5.8 on the control side of the face, and from 10.4 at baseline to 3.5 on the laser-treated side. The changes in scores differed significantly between sides (P less than .05), and the number of comedones decreased more on the laser-treated side of the face than it did the control side.

Significant improvements were also seen with superficial scars (P less than .05) and deep boxcar atrophic scars (P less than .01) on the laser-treated sides of patients’ faces, compared with the control sides, but significant improvements were not seen with the number of papules and nodules or with icepick or rolling scars.

Patients reported discomfort after NAFL treatment, including pain (100%), sensation of heat (100%), erythema (94.5%), and edema (88.9%), which resolved spontaneously within 24 hours.

Most of the patients (n = 12; 66.7%) were satisfied after the last treatment, two (11.1%) were “very satisfied,” and four (22.2%) were neutral; none were dissatisfied.

“Low-dose isotretinoin effectively controlled papule and pustule acne lesions, whereas use of 1,550-nm Er:glass NAFL may significantly reduce the number of comedones and improve boxcar atrophic scars,” the authors wrote.

They authors reported no significant interest with commercial supporters.

SOURCE: Xia J et al. Dermatol Surg. 2018 Sep;44(9):1201-8.

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