The very lasers that dermatologists have in their practices to treat wrinkles, acne scars and pigmented lesions have the power to rehabilitate the most disfiguring of burns and other scars.
Miami, Fla., dermatologist Jill Waibel, M.D., spoke on using lasers for trauma rehabilitation at the Orlando Dermatology Aesthetic and Clinical Conference (Orlando, Fla., January 2016), and was honored during that meeting with a Journal of Drugs in Dermatology (JDD) Humanitarian Award for her work in using lasers to treat patients with traumatic burn injuries.
Dr. Waibel, assistant voluntary faculty at University of Miami and chief of dermatology at Baptist Hospital, in Miami, says dermatologists who look beyond the use of lasers in the traditional cosmetic sense have the power to make incredible differences in the lives of burn and trauma patients.
The goal of scar therapy is the restoration of the patient to his or her pre-injury state. The surgery not only improves severe scars, but also relieves severe contractures and improves contour abnormalities, according to Dr. Waibel’s presentation.
Treat early to avoid scarring
There’s no question — whether it’s a shark bite or a burn — scars are going to form after a serious trauma, according to Dr. Waibel.
“So, why would you wait and start treating?” she says. “We have seen that early intervention makes the scars almost go away before they form. It’s really powerful.”
Early treatment is one of the most important messages to send to dermatologists using lasers to treat burn or trauma scars. Traditionally, doctors have been taught to wait at least 12 months to treat burn and trauma scars.
“That’s really counterintuitive, because the scars get worse,” Dr. Waibel says.
The best time to treat a scar is as soon as the epithelium is intact, which is usually around three months. At that point, dermatologists can gently begin laser scar treatment to prevent scar formation, according to Dr. Waibel.
“These patients can have horrific, disfiguring, painful contracture scars that form. And a lot of our patients are children. We’ve seen that when you go in early, they need less surgery and less laser treatment,” she says.
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Dr. Waibel has nearly completed a clinical trial with Lutronics showing early scar treatment with lasers works, and she told Dermatology Times that she has been using this approach in practice and with her work on military personnel with battle scars for the last three to four years.