Effectively treating vascular and pigmented lesions — from common facial telangiectasias to more challenging hemangiomas — relies on identifying the appropriate tools and then honing one’s technique to achieve the best results. However, more often than not, patients want to make the most of their sessions by undergoing concomitant facial resurfacing to improve wrinkles and texture changes related to repeated sun exposure, according to William F. Groff, D.O., who practices alongside aesthetic laser pioneer, Richard Fitzpatrick, M.D., at the La Jolla Cosmetic Surgery Centre, in La Jolla, Calif. In these cases, Dr. Groff tells Cosmetic Surgery Times, a combination of two or more lasers is often the best approach. Here, Dr. Groff offers tips and perspective on wrinkle and vascular and pigmented lesion treatment strategies that result in patients whose post-procedure appearance is ultimately the best form of marketing.
RESULTS DELIVERED The most common facial lesions that patients request treatment for are wrinkles, telangiectasias and solar lentigines according to Dr. Groff, who adds that these are followed in frequency by rosacea, melasma, cherry angiomas and spider angiomas.
“Facial telangiectasias, cherry angiomas and spider angiomas are fairly easy to treat if you have the right tools,” says Dr. Groff. They can all be treated very safely and effectively with pulsed dye lasers (PDLs) in just one or two sessions. “PDL has a long track record and is certainly considered the gold standard, so if the practitioner wants to treat both vascular and pigmented lesions, the PDL is one unit that can be counted on to deliver reliable, predictable and safe results. We have about 20 lasers in our practice and the PDL is probably the safest. The chance of having a problem or complication is extremely rare.”
Dr. Groff’s technique for facial telangiectasias comprises the use of a Candela V-beam Perfecta PDL, using the 10 mm spot size with 7.5 to 10 J/cm2. “I would usually use a 6, 10 or 20 ms pulse duration [depending on the size of the vessels], and it could take anywhere from one to three sessions at the most,” he explains. Larger vessels require treatment with longer pulse durations. David J. Goldberg, M.D., J.D., adds that, “A variety of other lasers and light sources can also be successfully and safely used to treat such vascular lesions. Among the more popular wavelengths besides the 595 PDL are the 532, 940, 980 and 1064 nm wavelengths.” Dr. Goldberg is director of Skin Laser & Surgery Specialists of NY/NJ, and clinical professor of dermatology/director of laser research at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NYC.
There is a high demand for facial laser resurfacing in Dr. Groff’s practice and almost every person who comes in for resurfacing has brown spots and telangiectasias. “But no matter what kind of fractional resurfacing device you use, most telangiectasias and some brown spots remain.” To get the best results, Dr. Groff recommends using a combination of lasers. “There’s not one box that does it all and does it all the best,” he says.
For a patient who has facial telangiectasias, solar lentigines and wrinkles, Dr. Groff recommends using the PDL to remove the capillaries, the PDL or Q-switched alexandrite to remove the lentigines, then immediately treating with fractional CO2 resurfacing all in one session. “The results are much better than if you use any of these technologies alone,” he says. “Dr. Fitzpatrick and I have been doing these combination treatments for years, and we’ve never had any complications from combining lasers in one session. Our results are excellent and patients appreciate not having to come back for separate treatments, which would incur more social downtime. There’s a synergistic effect where the results are much better when these treatments are done at the same time, in comparison to doing them separately,” he adds.
Taking the synergistic effect one step further, Dr. Groff recommends pretreating with BOTOX around the glabella, the forehead and the crow’s feet area one to two weeks before performing fractional resurfacing. “If you do this, those muscles are relaxed so they’re not contracting and etching lines into freshly resurfaced skin,” he explains.
STACKING TREATMENTS In the majority of these cases, patients who are seeking resurfacing and treatment for telangiectasias also want to be rid of the vertical upper lip “smokers’ lines” that are commonplace among women over the age of 40. “The gold standard for erasing these lines is still traditional multiple pass CO2 laser resurfacing in combination with erbium laser resurfacing. So even though fractionated CO2 will soften the lines, if the patient wants those lines to be gone you still need multiple pass CO2 and erbium laser resurfacing,” he explains. “In our practice, if we’re going to resurface a woman’s facial skin, we’ll use a fractional CO2 over the entire face with the exception of the upper lip where we’ll perform traditional multiple pass CO2 and erbium resurfacing in addition to using the PDL and the Q-switched alexandrite laser to address the telangiectasias and brown spots, respectively. We use these lasers back to back in the same treatment session. That’s really the way to get the best results,” Dr. Groff says. With regard to these challenging upper lip lines, Dr. Goldberg adds that, “Although fractional nonablative lasers do not typically lead to improvement of upper lip lines, many clinicians have also seen great results from ablative fractional lasers emitting 2790, 2940 and 10,600 nm wavelengths.”
For pigmented lesions, Dr. Groff opts for Candela’s TriVantage, a Q-switched alexandrite laser, which delivers energy through a fiber optic cable, giving it a homogeneous result with less variation from pulse to pulse. “We consider this laser the workhorse of our practice. It’s fast and extremely effective,” he says. The TriVantage offers Q-switched 1064 nm and 532 nm wavelengths, as well as a 755 nm wavelength, so, in addition to treating pigmented lesions, it is also effective for tattoo removal of many colors. “Previously removing multicolor tattoos meant using multiple lasers, but with the TRiVantage we’re able to remove all colors except for white, yellow and fluorescents,” he says.
|YAG 1064 nm Lasers||Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) Devices|
|Applications||Hair Removal, Photorejuvenation, Skin Tightening, Active Acne treatment, Telangiectasias (spider veins), Rosacea, Sun & Age Spots, Pseudofolliculitis Barbae.||Hair Removal, Photorejuvenation, Sun & Age Spots, Rosacea.|
|Efficacy||High power to dermis: more energy to follicles, vessels, collagen, sebaceous glands.||High power absorption in epidermis: less energy to deep dermal structures.|
|Comfort||Less painful due to shorter pulse durations.||Very painful due to tendency to super heat epidermal melanin. Skin cooling gels or equipment needed.|
|Risk of Side Effects||Safe on all Skin Types.||Higher risk of burning skin; not recommended for use on skin types 4-6 or tanned skin because of pigmentary risk.|
|Consumables||Few or none.||Frequent head replacements (on average after 30,000 pulses), filters and gels – annual cost $5,000-$10,000.|
We stumbled upon an old (March 7, 2007) article in ABC News – Spa Left Woman With Skin ‘Like Raw Meat’ – a story about a 52-year-old stay-at-home mom who saw the ugly side of medical spas. She went to one in Panama City, Fla., for what she thought was a routine procedure – laser treatments to remove sunspots on her back and chest.
“They put a topical ointment on my skin called Leveline, which intensified the laser,” Miles said. “After it was over, I was already burning. During the treatment, it was very excruciating pain, but I was lead to believe that this was normal.”
The pain, which she said felt like someone pressing hot curling irons in to her back, was not normal. After leaving the spa, she said that her back was on fire and that she was vomiting from the severe pain. When she finally looked in a mirror, Miles was shocked at what she saw.
“It looked like raw meat. I had horrendous blisters all over it. It was in a zebra-stripe type pattern. It was scary,” she said.
Treatment of pigmentation is a complex subject. Determining the type of lesion will help to establish which laser or light device to use and what parameters to set.
Hyperpigmentation is a broad descriptive term, offering us little information about etiology or pathophysiology of the lesion. Dividing this expansive category into primary versus secondary helps with treatment decision-making and predicting outcome.
Moreover, hyperpigmentation can stem from epidermal, dermal or a combination of these locations. Discrete lesions, such as lentigines, ephelides (primarily epidermal lesions) and nevus of Ito or Ota and decorative tattoos (primarily dermal lesions), show the most favorable response to laser and light-based therapies.
Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation would be the main component of the secondary hyperpigmentations. Melasma can also be considered in this category, as it generally behaves similarly to postinflammatory hyperpigmentation after laser treatments, showing the most unpredictable response to laser and light-based therapies.
Primary pigmented lesions are generally easier to treat than secondary lesions. For localized lesions on the trunk and face, the Q-switched lasers are very successful at removing pigmentation. These include Q-switched ruby (694 nm), Q-switched alexandrite (755 nm) and Q-switched Nd:YAG (both 1,064 nm and 532 nm). For darker skin types, choose the longer-wavelength Q-switched lasers, as their emissions have less absorption by melanin and hence less competition/absorption from normally pigmented skin.
To learn more about the use of IPLs, long-pulsed dye laser (LPDL) and Q-switched lasers for the treatment of solar lentigines, photoaging and flat seborrheic keratosis read The right tool: Lesion type determines which laser, light device is best choice, opinions of Joely Kaufman, M.D., assistant professor of clinical dermatology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine and director of lasers for the University of Miami Cosmetic Group, and Vic Narurkar, M.D., the chair of dermatology at California Pacific Medical Center and director and founder, Bay Area Laser Institute, and associate clinical professor of dermatology at University of California Davis School Of Medicine.
Just like Dr. Kaufman and Dr. Narurkar, I believe that there is a potential of further development of “do it at home” lasers:
“It remains to be seen what type of contribution the at-home devices will play in the treatment of pigmentation. The newer devices coming to the market look very promising as both preventive and adjuvant therapeutic options.”
Laser lasers and light-based devices for home use cannot be considered as a replacement of medical office treatment, but some of the products in the laser industry pipeline can be used as ancillary tools to enhance the effectiveness of a medical treatment plan.
Pulsed dye laser (PDL, 595 nm) is the current treatment of choice for port-wine stains (PWS), but 25–50% of treated lesions do not demonstrate a significant improvement.
Combination of laser may improve treatment efficacy, especially those using the synergies between PDL and Nd:YAG 1064nm laser. There is a growing body of research and anecdotal evidence that the dual wavelength approach shows efficacy with less discomfort for the patient.
What do brown spots, liver spots, sun spots, age spots, pigmented spots, sun burns, melasma, chloasma, hiperpigmentation and skin cancer have in common? The sun damage.
Watch the Sun Damaged Skin Slideshow of alarming pictures of skin damage and take action to prevent skin problems and reduce your skin care costs.
This is our most recent (constantly updated) collection of video materials demonstrating laser treatments of pigmented skin lesions, such as liver spots, brown spots, cafe au lait spots, sunspots (lentigines) and age spots.