Lasers in Cosmetic Surgery
When you think of lasers you may imagine a science fiction movie and some sort of weapon sending a flash of light across the silver screen. While that image of lasers is best left to Hollywood, lasers do have a real place in surgical procedures. In fact, the recent development of laser surgery has led to a number of new surgical techniques and confers several advantages over more traditional procedures.
A laser is simply a special form of highly concentrated light energy. When laser light energy is focused on a specific area it can cause the temperature in that area to rise very rapidly. When lasers are used in surgery, that focused light energy can be used to vaporize cells, close or eliminate broken blood vessels and change the color of the skin (by removing highly pigmented areas).
The use of lasers for surgical purposes requires that the surgeon be familiar with both the benefits and dangers of the technology. Laser surgery as a field is new and quite complex. For instance not all lasers are the same and the gas in which the laser concentrates the light energy influences the ultimate strength of the energy, as well as the eventual result of that laser on human tissue. The provider that you choose must be qualified to perform laser surgery and understand the differences between different medical lasers and how to apply them in specific situations.
Lasers can be used in a variety of surgical procedures—many of them are for cosmetic results. For example, a low energy laser can be used to resurface the skin and soften wrinkles. Lasers can also be applied to “port wine stains” to vaporize the deeply pigmented skin leaving healthy skin that matches the color of the surrounding face. Birthmarks can be reduced or eliminated by using laser energy. In skilled hands, lasers can be used to remove tattoos. Many people have small veins (sometimes called spider veins) that are not aesthetically appealing. Laser surgery can target these veins and destroy them instantly.
Most laser surgery can be performed under local anesthesia with or without additional sedation. Under certain conditions general anesthesia may be indicated but this should be discussed at length with your health care provider. After the procedure it is quite common for the skin to become red and swollen. Your doctor may recommend creams or ointments be applied to the area after the procedure. While the skin is not technically broken with most laser surgery, the skin is disturbed, so an antibiotic cream may be prescribed to reduce the chance of skin infection.
As with most cosmetic surgeries, the cost of laser surgery is usually the responsibility of the patient. If the laser surgery is being performed to correct congenital malformations or skin injuries that have occurred as a consequence of an accident, health insurers may cover part or all of the cost. This should be settled in advance of the laser surgery in a process called pre-approval. Most health insurance companies are more likely to pay for a procedure if it is discussed ahead of time rather than after the fact.
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