AUTHORS: Nathan S. Uebelhoer, DO1, E. Victor Ross, MD1,2, Peter R. Shumaker, MD1
RESEARCH SITES: 1Department of Dermatology, Naval Medical Center San Diego, San Diego, CA. 2Department of Dermatology, Scripps Clinic, La Jolla, CA.
PUBLICATION: Semin Cutan Med Surg 31:110-120
After a decade of military conflict, thousands of wounded warriors have suffered debilitating and cosmetically disfiguring scars and scar contractures. Clearly, there is a need for effective scar treatment regimens to assist in the functional and cosmetic rehabilitation of these patients. Traditional treatments, including aggressive physical and occupational therapy and dedicated wound care, are essential. Adjunctive treatments with established laser technologies, such as vascular lasers and full-field ablative lasers, have had a somewhat limited role in scar contractures due to modest efficacy and/or an unacceptable side effect profile in compromised skin. Refractory scar contractures often require surgical revision, which can be effective, but is associated with additional surgical morbidity and a significant risk of recurrence. Furthermore, current scar treatment paradigms often dictate scar maturation for approximately a year to allow for spontaneous improvement before surgical intervention. Since 2009, the Dermatology Clinic at the Naval Medical Center San Diego has been treating scars and scar contractures in wounded warriors and others using ablative fractionated laser technology. Although traditionally associated with the rejuvenation of aged and photo-damaged skin, our clinical experience and a handful of early reports indicate that laser ablative fractional resurfacing demonstrates promising efficacy and an excellent side effect profile when applied to the functional and cosmetic enhancement of traumatic scars and contractures. This article discusses our clinical experience with ablative fractional resurfacing and its potential prominent role in rehabilitation from traumatic injuries, including a possible shift in scar treatment paradigms toward earlier procedural intervention. Potential benefits include the optimization of scar trajectory and higher levels of full or adapted function in a more favorable time course.