Laser Resurfacing / Procedure
Planning your procedure
One safety measure is to find out whether your surgeon has privileges to perform laser resurfacing with a CO2 laser at an accredited hospital. Even if the operation is to be conducted in your doctor's private facility, the fact that he or she has privileges to use that same laser in a hospital ensures that the doctor has been reviewed by the institution's experts.
In your initial consultation, be frank in discussing your expectations with the surgeon and don't hesitate to ask any questions you may have. Your surgeon should be equally frank with you, explaining the factors that could influence the procedure and the results - such as any abnormal skin condition which has been diagnosed or previously treated, medications you are taking or have taken in the past, previous skin injuries or previous operations.
Your surgeon will discuss your medical history, perform a routine examination and photograph the area to be treated. He or she should explain the procedure in detail, along with its risks and benefits, the recovery period and the costs.
Remember, cosmetic laser treatments can be expensive and are usually not covered by medical insurance. On rare occasions, the procedure can be used for modification of scars or the removal of pre-cancerous skin growths. These conditions could meet the criteria for "medical necessity," usually required by insurance companies before coverage will be provided. Your plastic surgeon can advise you how to contact your insurance carrier to determine whether benefits will be allowed in such instances.
Preparing for your procedureDepending on your individual needs, your surgeon may recommend that you begin a pre-treatment plan to prepare the skin for resurfacing.
At the time of the procedure, you will be given specific instructions on how to care for your skin immediately following your laser treatment. Your surgeon may also instruct you to follow a specific maintenance regimen for long-term care of the skin to maximize the benefits of the procedure.
While you are making plans, be sure to make arrangements for someone to drive you home if you will be given tranquilizers or sedation for your laser treatment.
Where your laser treatment will be performed
Laser resurfacing may be performed in a hospital, an outpatient surgery center or a surgeon's office-based facility. For cost containment and convenience, laser resurfacing is usually done on an outpatient basis. For the more extensive resurfacing procedures or for resurfacing combined with other surgical procedures, you may be admitted to a hospital or a recovery center.
Types of anesthesia
Laser resurfacing is most commonly performed under local anesthesia with sedation, especially when it's used to treat localized areas of the face. You'll be awake but relaxed, and will feel minimal discomfort. For more extensive resurfacing, your surgeon may prefer to use general anesthesia, in which case you'll sleep through the procedure.
Laser resurfacing is a relatively quick procedure. It usually takes anywhere from a few minutes to 1 1/2 hours, depending on how large of an area is involved.
When the imperfections are especially deep, your surgeon may recommend that the resurfacing be performed in two or more stages.
During the procedure, the activated laser is carefully passed back and forth over the skin until the surgeon reaches the level that will make the wrinkle or scar less visible.
When the procedure is over, your surgeon may choose to treat the resurfaced skin with applications of protective creams or ointments until healing is complete. Some surgeons choose to apply a bandage over the treated areas that will cover and protect the healing skin for the first five to ten days.