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BACKGROUND: The widespread use of surgical lasers has found place in dermatologic and aesthetic surgery largely because they are well tolerated with a reduced incidence of postoperative haemorrhage and oedema, few associated adverse events and a high rate of patient satisfaction.
PATIENTS AND METHODS: A retrospective analysis of 1232 consecutive patients was performed on patients undergoing a range of laser treatments between January 2005 and January 2010. A mixed variety of indications for laser use included dermatologic surgeries for the removal of fibromas, angiomas and naevi, aesthetic surgeries for acne, superficial vascular conditions, facial rejuvenations and remodelling and tattoo removals as well as many miscellaneous conditions. A range of lasers were employed including CO2, Erbium: Yttrium Aluminum Garnet (Er:YAG), diodes, Alexandrite, Ruby and Neodymium:Yttrium Aluminum Garnet (Nd:YAG) lasers with variable use for different indications in combination with a selective protocol of topical anaesthesia and local cooling systems.
RESULTS: Patient satisfaction was high overall (92.4%) with most reported failures amongst those treated for general surgical conditions where there were the highest recorded complication rates. The main failures occurred in those with small cutaneous telangiectases (36.2% incomplete treatment response and 31.9% dissatisfaction rate). In those patients where lasers were used for aesthetic reasons,(most notably in those undergoing tattoo or scar removal and in those with hypertrichosis and dermatofolliculitis), incomplete results occurred in 7.2% with an 11.8% dissatisfaction rate and rare complications (0.9%). In this group, the highest reported incomplete results occurred in patients undergoing tattoo removal (13.9%), followed by scar removal (12.5%) and then by those undergoing treatment for hypertrichosis and dermatofolliculitis (8.8%).
CONCLUSIONS: Laser use in general surgery is associated with a high success rate for a wide variety of conditions with high patient satisfaction and a low incidence of adverse events in experienced hands. The advantages and disadvantages as well as the specific recommendations for different laser types are presented with clinical advances resulting from the development of non-ablative laser systems designed for dermal remodeling.