Magazine article USA TODAY

Laser Procedures Can Be High-Risk

Magazine article USA TODAY

Laser Procedures Can Be High-Risk

Article excerpt

Michael Kaminer, assistant professor of dermatology, Tufts University School of Medicine, Boston, Mass., and a dermatologist at the New England Medical Center, says he performs laser cosmetic surgery on just one out of three patients who request the procedure to get rid of their wrinkles. "Of all the cosmetic procedures available right now, [some forms of] laser surgery [are] probably the riskiest." Nevertheless, the widely popular procedure accounts for 20% of his clinical work.

Cosmetic laser surgery "erases" wrinkles or scars by using heat to burn off a thin layer of skin. It is especially popular among the middle-aged, who tend to be more concerned with wrinkles than with sagging skin, which is the focus of the more expensive, traditional plastic surgery that uses small, inconspicuous incisions to stretch facial skin.

Laser surgery carries a greater risk of infection than traditional face-lifts, Kaminer cautions, because a larger area of skin is exposed. It is extremely easy to burn too deeply, leaving permanent scars. The laser burn heals differently and is more sensitive to topical treatment than other types of scrapes or burns.

Despite the risks, laser surgery is popular because it works, lasts longer, and is less expensive than other cosmetic procedures. Laser surgery costs up to $5,000, compared to $9,000 or more for a traditional face-lift.

What worries Kaminer is that there is a widespread misconception -- among physicians as well as consumers -- that laser surgery is easy. …

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