Conference Coverage

Tips for preventing complications in resurfacing skin of color



– In the opinion of Jeremy A. Brauer, MD, the best way to prevent complications in resurfacing skin of color is to make sure that you’ve selected the proper patient to treat.

Dr. Jeremy A. Brauer, NYU Langone Medical Center

Dr. Jeremy A. Brauer

“You have to have the right patients and the right indication,” Dr. Brauer said at the annual conference of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery. “What are they coming in for? Are they asking for what they really need?”

Taking a thorough medical history during consultations and follow-up visits is also key. “What medical or surgical problems do they have?” he asked. “Do they have a history of keloid formation? Are they on isotretinoin? What allergies do they have? What are their expectations, and are they realistic? For example, do they believe that you are going to erase all of their acne scars? On physical exam, be sure that what you’re looking at is what they’re concerned about, so that you agree upon what can and can’t be effectively treated.”

Above all else, stay true to your gut. “If you perceive that someone is not a suitable candidate for resurfacing or has unrealistic expectations, and they are insistent, it is important to stand your ground, and even find a way to politely walk away,” said Dr. Brauer of the department of dermatology at New York University.

Most complications from laser resurfacing are not unique to skin of color, he continued. A review of the topic revealed that mild complications may include prolonged erythema, acne and milia, delayed purpura, superficial erosions, contact dermatitis, and recall phenomenon (Dermatol Surg. 2010;36[3]:299-306). Moderate complications may include infection, pigmentary alteration, anesthesia toxicity, and eruptive keratoacanthomas, while severe complications may include hypertrophic scarring, ectropion formation, and disseminated infection.

An earlier analysis of fractional laser treatment found that patients with darker skin types had a significantly higher proportion of certain side effects, namely postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (Dermatol Surg. 2008;34[3]:301-7). “Additionally, the researchers found that this presented both later and lasted longer than in individuals with lighter skin types,” said Dr. Brauer, who was not involved with the study.

He listed pigmentary alterations and hypertrophic scarring/keloid formation as the potential complications from resurfacing to be most concerned about in skin of color patients. “In addition to appropriate device selection, the correct device parameters are key,” he said. “You have to make sure you use appropriate energy, but you can use higher energies with lower densities to minimize the risk of postinflammatory pigmentation. You also want to protect the epidermis by use of epidermal cooling, avoid bulk heating, and perform sessions at prolonged treatment intervals, to safely achieve optimal results.”

Dr. Brauer reported having received honoraria or being a member of the medical advisory board for Cutera, Cynosure/Hologic, and Merz.

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