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Laser surgery - skin

Definition

Laser surgery is a medical procedure that uses laser light to remove diseased tissues or treat bleeding blood vessels. Laser surgery may also be used for cosmetic purposes, such as removing wrinkles, sunspots, tattoos, or birthmarks.

Alternative Names

Surgery using a laser

Description

A laser is a light beam that can be precisely focused. It is used to treat tissues by heating the targeted cells until they "burst."

There are several types of lasers, including the carbon dioxide (CO2) laser, the YAG (yttrium aluminum garnet) laser, alexandrite, KTP, and the pulsed dye laser. Each laser has specific uses. The color of the light beam used is directly related to the type of surgery being performed and the color of the tissue being treated.

Why the Procedure Is Performed

Laser surgery can be used to:

  • Close small blood vessels to reduce blood loss
  • Remove warts, moles, sunspots, and tattoos
  • Reduce the appearance of skin wrinkles, scars, and other skin blemishes
  • Remove dilated blood vessels from the face
  • Remove hair
  • Remove precancerous lesions (actinic keratoses)

Risks

Possible risks of laser surgery include:

  • Activation of the herpes simplex virus, leading to cold sores
  • Bleeding
  • Incomplete treatment of the problem
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Scarring
  • Skin color changes

Some laser surgery is done when you are under general anesthesia. Be sure to discuss the risks with your health care provider.

After the Procedure

How well a patient does depends on the condition being treated. Always talk to your health care provider about your expected recovery before surgery.

You may need to keep the skin moisturized and protected from the sun.

Outlook (Prognosis)

The amount of time it takes to recover from surgery depends on the surgery and on the person. Based on an evaluation of your health before surgery, your health care provider can give you a good estimate of the recovery time.

References

Tung R, Vidimos A. Nonmelanoma skin cancer. In: Carey WD. Cleveland Clinic: Current Clinical Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2010.

Laser surgery and cosmetic dentistry. In: James W, Berger T, Elston D, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin. 10th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier;2005:chap 38.


Review Date: 10/30/2010
Reviewed By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Medical Director, MEDEX Northwest Division of Physician Assistant Studies, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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