Ask The Surgeon

My son had severe acne as a teenager, which left permanent scars. Now an executive, he wants to project a polished image. Can anything be done to improve his skin tone?

A new technique for treating superficial scars is the CO2 laser. The device uses high-energy, amplified light waves to vaporize the top layer of skin, allowing undamaged new skin to grow. Similar to dermabrasion, the laser works instantly and with minimal bleeding, leaving surrounding tissue undamaged. Repeated passes may be made to shave the skin down to a uniform level.

Laser resurfacing is done with local anesthesia or light sedation, depending on the size of the area to be treated. Afterward, the treated skin feels like it has mild sunburn. Initial healing takes a week, and redness continues to fade for several months.

Darker-skinned individuals are susceptible to pigment changes after CO2 laser therapy. The changes are usually permanent, so the procedure may not be appropriate for all patients.

Beauty Tip

If you're considering laser surgery or any other facial plastic surgery procedure, tell your surgeon about any prescription or non-prescription medications that you are taking well in advance of the procedure.

Several different types of medications have a possible side effect of photosensitivity, which increases the skin's reaction to light. This can leave your skin with a blue cast after laser treatment. Examples of drugs that can cause photosensitivity include Minocycline, a drug used to treat acne, and other antibiotics such as Doxycycline and Tetracycline, heart medications such as Hydrodiuril, and Cordarone, oral contraceptives and hormone-replacement medications, and Diabinese, an oral diabetes medication. Photosensitivity varies greatly; some people experience none, while others have strong responses.

Other medications can cause complications for surgical procedures. Over-the-counter analgesics and anti-inflammatory medications, like Aspirin, Motrin and Anaprox, for example, are blood-thinning. They can cause increased bruising after surgery.

Knowing your medical history and medication regimen will help your facial plastic surgeon determine which procedures will produce the best outcomes for you.

What's New?

A Scottish husband and wife research team recently completed the first successful hair transplant between people. Hair cells taken from the husband's scalp and implanted into the wife's forearm produced new hairs, confirmed by DNA testing to have come from the transplanted cells. The transplant involved the transfer of a thin film of cells from the dermal sheath surrounding a hair follicle, rather than a hair itself.

The experiment suggests that in the future it may be possible to restore hair loss through balding, disease or accident with transplants from other people. It may also provide clues about how to overcome tissue rejection in other types of transplants.

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