A carbon dioxide laser is used to improve the appearance of skin and repair damaged skin layer by layer. The CO2 laser minimizes fine lines around the eyes and mouth, and is effective in treating facial scars and hyperpigmentation.
The CO2 laser works by focusing a beam of laser energy to vaporize the upper layers of damaged skin. This is a controlled vaporization of the outer layer of the skin. Once the skin is treated, the healing phase begins and new cells form producing a smoother, tighter, younger-looking skin surface.
Postoperatively, a protective dressing will be applied. This may be removed in 1-2 days with placement of a new dressing. As the skin heals under the dressing it will gradually start to peel away from the new skin. This occurs over 7-10 days. The resurfaced “new skin” will initially have a pink appearance when the dressing is removed. Dr. Kirkpatrick will advise you to keep the skin moist, using a product such as Aquaphor, for 1-2 weeks after the dressing is removed.
Patients considering a CO2 laser resurfacing procedure with olive skin, brown skin, or black skin may be at an increased risk for pigmentation changes. These changes include both hyperpigmentation (darkening of the skin) and hypopigmentation (lightening of the skin or loss of pigmentation). Dr. Kirkpatrick will evaluate your skin during the consultation appointment. Recommendations to your treatment may change according to your skin classification. Also, individuals who have been treated with Accutane in the past 12 months may not be candidates for a laser treatment.
CO2 laser resurfacing treatment is performed under general anesthesia in our outpatient surgical facility. You are comfortable and asleep for the entire procedure. Recovery from a laser resurfacing procedure is around 10-14 days with minimal pain. Risks associated with laser resurfacing include: burns or other injuries from the heat of the laser energy, scarring, and obvious lightening or darkening of the treated skin. Also, laser resurfacing can activate herpes virus infections (“cold sores”) and, rarely, other types of infection. Discuss any history of cold sores or other skin infections with Dr. Kirkpatrick during your consult.
You can reduce your risks by choosing a qualified surgeon who has received special training in laser surgery. One safety measure is to find out whether your surgeon has privileges to perform laser resurfacing with a CO2 laser at an accredited hospital. Even if the operation is to be conducted in your doctor’s private facility, the fact that he or she has privileges to use that same laser in a hospital ensures that the institution’s experts have reviewed the doctor.