Picosecond laser shows promise for new era in tattoo removal

August 1, 2012

Treatment with a picosecond 755 nm alexandrite laser (Cynosure) appears to be a significant advance for clearing tattoos and benign pigmented lesions, according to research reported at LASER 2012, the annual conference of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery.

Key Points

Results from two clinical trials investigating the laser to treat a variety of professional tattoos and pigmented lesions showed it was safe and worked rapidly and effectively in both indications.

"The laser also clears benign pigmented lesions both rapidly and effectively, and the relatively long wavelength of the alexandrite laser makes it suitable for treating dermal as well as epidermal benign pigmented lesions," he says.

Additional study

Roy G. Geronemus, M.D., director, Laser & Skin Surgery of New York, and clinical professor of dermatology, New York University Medical Center, presented outcomes from treating 18 patients with 24 tattoos, including 11 previously untreated, multicolored tattoos and 13 that were recalcitrant to previous laser treatment.

Dr. Geronemus says he is particularly impressed by the performance of the laser in clearing blue and green ink; in his series, more than two-thirds of green and/or blue tattoos were nearly 100 percent cleared after one or two treatments.

"Blue and green tattoos have been very resistant to treatment with nanosecond pulse lasers. The average tattoo needs six to 10 treatments to achieve acceptable results, but up to 20 sessions are sometimes needed," Dr. Geronemus says. "The dramatic clearing of blue and green tattoos in just one or two sessions using the picosecond alexandrite laser is really remarkable." Dr. Geronemus is also clinical professor of dermatology, New York University School of Medicine, New York.

The potential for better tattoo clearance using picosecond laser pulses has been recognized for almost 15 years based on studies in animal models and humans using prototype instruments.

However, building a stable and reliable device that would be suitable for the commercial market has presented technical challenges that were successfully overcome by engineers at Cynosure, Dr. Geronemus says.