Conference Coverage

Early combination laser treatment boosts scar healing




KISSIMMEE, FLA. – Early treatment with fractional carbon dioxide ablative laser and light-emitting diode phototherapy sped healing and improved texture, discoloration, and range of motion in hypertrophic burn scars in a controlled, blinded study of 20 patients.

“I think as long as we have intact epithelium, we’re going to have improvements if we can laser these patients as early as possible,” Dr. Jill Waibel said at the annual conference of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery.

Dr. Jill Waibel

Dr. Jill Waibel

Approximately 100 million new scars occur annually in developed countries, almost a third of which result from trauma or burns, noted Dr. Waibel, a dermatologist specializing in treating burn scars at the Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute. Scarred areas begin to hypertrophy about 3-7 months after injury, when they undergo increased collagen production and slowed collagen breakdown, said Dr. Waibel. “Traditionally, reconstructive efforts have been delayed until a year after injury,” she emphasized. “But by this time, many patients have formed hypertrophic scars and have significant decreases in range of motion.”

To determine how early treatment with a combination of laser/LED therapy might interrupt hypertrophy and improve outcomes, Dr. Waibel and coinvestigator Ashley Rudnick treated 20 patients aged 21-55 years with moderate to severe burns on at least 5% of the body surface area that had occurred in the past 1-3 months. For each patient, they divided similarly scarred areas into four 5- by 5-cm squares, one of which served as an untreated control. They treated the other three areas with 120-micron spot fractional ablative carbon dioxide laser only, continuous wave LED phototherapy only, or fractional ablative laser followed by LED. They spaced the three laser sessions 2 months apart, and used eight 20-minute LED treatments per laser session. The fractional laser wavelength was 10,600 nm, energy was 80-120 mJ per pixel, and the frequency was up to 200 Hz, Dr. Waibel said. The LED wavelength was 830 nm, and energy intensity was 40-100 mW per cm2.

All treated areas improved more than the untreated control areas of scarring, but combining the modalities was associated with the fastest healing, according to blinded photographic reviews by physicians based on the visual analog Manchester scar scale, Dr. Waibel reported.

Phototherapy with LED can penetrate up to an inch of tissue and promotes selective ATP production and DNA and RNA activity, she added. “The positive effects occur only in injured cells,” she said. “LED has wound healing and anti-inflammatory effects that might benefit acutely wounded skin.”

Based on her experience, patients usually need from three to five sessions of fractional laser/LED sessions to see clear results, Dr. Waibel said in response to a question from an audience member. “We know that every time we treat a hypertrophic scar, it will get better,” she added. “When patients stop coming for treatment, you know they’re happy. If you can combine modalities softly and safely, you’ll need fewer treatments.”

Dr. Waibel disclosed financial and advisory relationships with ALMA, Cutera, DUSA, Harvest Technologies, L’Oreal/SkinCeuticals, Lumenis, Lutronics, Sebacia, Syneron-Candela, Valeant, and Zeltiq.

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