The pulsed CO2 laser is a procedure used to rejuvenate facial skin. The procedure is helpful for the reduction of fine facial wrinkles, such as cross-hatching of the lower eyelids and lines around the mouth, and hyperpigmentation such as skin discoloration and age spots. The major advantage over other skin resurfacing techniques is the effectiveness and predictability in removing sequential layers of skin precisely and cleanly. The amount and duration of improvement depends on the depth of treatment: the deeper the treatment, the “better” and longer lasting the results but with greater chance for sequelle and risks. Sequelle include persistent redness and permanent hypopigmentation changes (lightening of the skin). Risks include hyperpigmentation, infection, scars and milia. Therefore, Dr. Rasmussen prefers to perform the laser treatment at a moderate depth to reduce those risks. A second treatment, no sooner than 2 to 4 months after the first procedure, is sometimes performed for the stubborn, deeper wrinkles such as those found on the forehead and upper lip. In general, the procedure may not totally remove all wrinkles. Furthermore, the response to the laser treatment is very individualized and long term results cannot be guaranteed, although this laser results in the longest lasting of skin resurfacing procedures when performed at a moderated depth. Physician strength glycolic acid home products and/or retinoids are strongly recommended to enhance the long term cosmetic results of the pulse CO2 laser.
Initially, the treated areas are red, raw and swollen. Once the skin is regenerated, the red begins to fade to a light pink and the skin will have the appearance of a mild sunburn. This usually fades within 2 to 3 weeks but may persist up to 3 to 6 months. Risks with the pulsed CO2 laser treatment include an inability to completely correct the areas of concern. A line of color change is to be expected at the edges of the treated area. Irregular pigmentation can also occur, therefore bleaching agents are used before and after treatment for prevention. Bacterial or viral infections are also possible so antibiotics and antiviral medications are prescribed before and after the treatment. Scarring is a rare possibility.
Dr. Rasmussen performs this procedure at an outpatient facility and usually recommends general anesthesia.