Oct. 20, 2003 -- If you've ever wondered how to reduce acne scarring or sun damage, facial laser skin resurfacing may do the trick. A new study shows that most people who undergo the procedure are happy with the outcome and would even recommend it to others.
The research, appearing in the October issue of Archives of Dermatology, shows that laser skin resurfacing is increasingly popular and three months after the surgery, all participants in the study said their appearance improved.
The Low Down on Laser Skin Resurfacing
Laser skin resurfacing, also called laser peel, uses a laser to send out brief pulses of high-energy light, which vaporizes and removes the upper layer of damaged skin. As the wounded area heals, new skin grows and appears smoother, tighter, and younger.
The carbon dioxide/YAG laser is the most common type of laser used for resurfacing and was used on patients in this study.
Researchers say though many previous studies focused on the surgery itself, this is the first one to focus on how patients viewed the outcome of their procedure.
The researchers say they hope the study will provide information on the patient's perspective that can help prepare future patients for the period of healing.
Most Patients Would Do It Again
For this study, Stanford University School of Medicine researchers interviewed 27 consecutive patients (25 women and two men) who underwent full-face laser resurfacing for acne scarring or sun damage. The average age in the group was 50. They asked participants how they felt about the results of their surgery postoperatively at days one and three, one week, three and six weeks, and again 2 1/2 years later.
Researchers asked patients to comment on a variety of questions including:
- Did you worry about the outcome?
- Was the procedure worthwhile?
- Was there pain or discomfort?
- Would you recommend this procedure to others?
After 2 1/2 years, patients were also asked:
- Was there scarring?
- Was there infection?
- Did you see improvement between year one and two?
On postoperative day one, 37% of patients said they were worried about the outcome of the surgery and 11% considered it a "terrible experience." Twenty-six patients said they experienced discomfort, but 12 days after the surgery they said they were not experiencing discomfort.
After three months, all 27 patients said they thought they looked better than they did before having the procedure; however, satisfaction sunk when asked again at 2 1/2 years -- dropping from 100% to 88%. The number of people who said they would do it again also dropped in that time from 89% to 71%. Would they recommend it to others? After 2 1/2 years, 75% of patients said they would.
No patients reported scarring or infection, but only two patients felt that skin tone and appearance continued to improve between years one and two. Some had problems with pigment irregularity and sensitivity, and 8% said their skin was more easily traumatized than before.
Researchers write, "It is critical that physician and patient have shared, realistic expectations concerning outcome" and they hope "application of this information on patient responses after [laser skin resurfacing] may help to achieve this goal."