Lasers can effectively be used to treat burn scars, according to a new study that shows the use of a pulsed-dye laser tool can improve the appearance, texture and elasticity of damaged skin.
The study – conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Cincinnati, Shriners Hospitals for Children-Cincinnati and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center – compared the use of the laser combined with compression therapy on scars with standard compression therapy alone in pediatric burn patients.
The findings, published in the journal Dermatological Surgery, indicated the combination therapy to be the better option.
Lead researcher Dr. J. Kevin Bailey said the study is the first to objectively show the benefits of laser treatments on burn scars. He noted that while survival from severe burns has improved in recent years, doctors have not been able to identify a “superior method” for treating scar tissue.
But he said the new study proved the laser improved scars on several measurements of skin condition, including redness, elasticity and scar thickness. For the study, Bailey and his colleagues tracked pediatric patients undergoing burn scar reconstruction with newly healed skin grafts. While patients had compression therapy – which typically involves application of tight-fitting clothing, such as suits, masks, gloves, and stockings – researchers applied laser treatments to one-half of their grafts to gauge their effects.
They then used high-resolution digital photography, 3-D laser scanning and standardized assessments to determine each aspect of skin health – redness, elasticity and texture – showed improvement with combined laser and compression therapy.
Co-researcher Marty Visscher said the study has far-reaching implications for treating burns, as well as other scar tissue with laser treatments.
"For patients with burn scars, their self-esteem and integration into society is a huge factor in their well-being and quality of life," Visscher said. "In this case, we demonstrated a good way to determine if these treatments are working and how well they are working. It creates a framework to see if we can improve reconstruction even more for these patients."
This study was funded by the International Association of Fire Fighters.