Fractional laser treatments can help treat severe burns; mitigating disfigurement and improving functionality of scarred tissue. And this technology can help treat many of the soldiers returning from tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan who have been severely burned and disfigured by an Individual Explosive Device (IED), according to information presented at the 32nd Annual Conference of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery in Kissimmee, Florida.
Approximately 1 million Americans survive serious burns each year, but many are left severely disfigured. “What we have learned recently is that early intervention with laser scar treatments can achieve extraordinary results, “says Dr. Jill Waibel, MD, medical director at Miami Dermatology and Laser Institute, in a press release. “The good news is that fractional ablative lasers have become an amazing tool for correcting both the aesthetic and functionality issues presented by serious burn scars.”
Waibel performed one of the first fractional laser treatments on burn patients in 2008 and used a fractional ablative laser to treat a burn patient in 2009. Since then she and her colleagues have been working on optimizing the technique and hope to publish a paper later this year.
“Basically, we all believe that in combination with reconstructive surgery we think lasers are the gold standard that can help patients by increasing function of contracture scars and reducing the extent of disfiguring scars they often have.”
Waibel has visited Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland and the Naval Medical Center in San Diego to train physicians treating military patients to use the laser techniques she has developed. “IEDs are being placed at head level so we are seeing a lot more facial scarring in military patients,” she says.
Additionally, these lasers have been especially effective in treating large body surface areas and when used in the early stages of scarring in combination with steroid treatments.
“Scars tend to get worse 3-7 months after the injury,” Waibel explains. “The severe scarring typically doesn’t appear among patients during the time they’re recovering in the burn unit. We hypothesize and see it clinically that if we treat the scarring early, we can minimize the severity of the scar and see increased functional range of motion.”