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Laser surgery - skin

Definition

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

Alternative Names

Surgery using a laser

Description

A laser is a light beam that can be focused on a very small area. The laser heats 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 the appearance of 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 health care provider about what you can expect. 

You may need to keep your skin moisturized and out of the sun after treatment.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Recovery time depends on the surgery and your overall health. Ask your health care provider before surgery how much recovery time you will need.

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. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2011:chap 38.

Tung R, Vidimos A. Nonmelanoma skin cancer. In: Carey WD. Cleveland Clinic: Current Clinical Medicine. 2nd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2010.


Review Date: 12/2/2014
Reviewed By: Richard J. Moskowitz, MD, dermatologist in private practice, Mineola, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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