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Laser surgery - skin

Laser surgery uses laser light to remove diseased tissues or treat bleeding blood vessels. Laser surgery may also be used to restore the skin and reduce wrinkles, sunspots, tattoos, or birthmarks.

Description

A laser is a light beam that can be focused on a very small area. The laser heats the cells in the area being treated until they "burst."

There are several types of lasers. Each laser has specific uses. The color of the light beam used is directly related to the type of surgery being performed and the color of the tissue being treated.

Why the Procedure is Performed

Laser surgery can be used to:

  • Close small blood vessels to reduce blood loss
  • Remove warts, moles, sunspots, and tattoos
  • Reduce skin wrinkles, scars, and other skin blemishes
  • Remove dilated blood vessels from the face
  • Remove hair
  • Remove skin cells that could turn into cancer

Risks

Possible risks of laser surgery include:

  • Cold sores if herpes simplex virus is already present
  • Bleeding
  • Problem not going away
  • Infection
  • Pain
  • Scarring
  • Skin color changes

Some laser surgery is done when you are asleep and pain free (general anesthesia). Talk to your health care provider about risks of laser surgery.

After the Procedure

The success of laser surgery depends on the condition being treated. Talk to your provider about what you can expect.

Talk to your provider about skin care following treatment. You may need to keep your skin moisturized and out of the sun.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Recovery time depends on the surgery and your overall health. Ask your provider before treatment how much recovery time you will need. Also ask about how many treatments you'll need to achieve your goal.

Alternative Names

Surgery using a laser

References

James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM. Cutaneous laser surgery. In: James WD, Berger TG, Elston DM, eds. Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology. 12th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 38.

Sakamoto FH, Jalian HR, Anderson RR. Understanding lasers, lights, and tissue interactions. In: Hruza GJ, Avram MM, eds. Lasers and Lights: Procedures in Cosmetic Dermatology. 3rd ed. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Saunders; 2013:chap 1.

Review Date 10/31/2016

Updated by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.