By Aletha Tippett MD
In looking at technology that helps in wound care, how many know about—and use—lasers? Cold lasers have been used by physical therapists for years, but cosmetic lasers can also be used. I have had tremendous success using laser therapy on wounds. Healing is much improved (and faster), with less scarring. I am not a technocrat. I’m much more old-fashioned, but the laser is a wonder.
Laser Technology in Managing Wounds
Years ago, I received a notice about a laser presentation, and was intrigued by the statement that lasers could stimulate collagen. As a new wound physician, I knew that collagen was an important protein in wound healing, so I went to the laser presentation and asked about collagen stimulation. The doctor presenting told me that the laser absolutely stimulates collagen – that’s how a cosmetic laser reduces wrinkles and lifts the skin. Fascinated, I attended every laser therapy presentation I could find, and attended a three-hour workshop for family medicine. At all presentations, I was told how a laser stimulates collagen, but no one I asked was aware of any wound treatment being done with laser technology. Of course, these were all cosmetic lasers. When I researched it further, I found that some physical therapists used “cold laser” for wound healing at a very low energy level.
I had seen dozens of lasers, and tried all of them. At the family medicine workshop, there were several lasers on display. The last one I saw was called Friendly Light (Aerolase). When I was testing it, I remarked that I couldn’t feel it. Every laser I had tested so far could be felt, sometimes painfully. That one could also be dialed down to a very low energy level (4-8 joules), making it almost like a cold laser.
So, I spent my $50,000 and bought a laser, an Nd:Yag that had a dial for altering the amount of energy used. I started using it on wounds, and it was remarkable. Wounds healed much faster (and with less scarring) using the laser – so this technology was definitely a good thing. Below are pictures of wounds treated using the laser:
Case: 47 year old with renal failure and sensory neuropathy with 3rd degree burns on foot. One laser treatment with 4 joules/cm2
Outside patients call me wanting laser therapy for their (or their loved one’s) wound. At least one has purchased a cold laser, and I explained to her how to use it. I have not heard yet if it is working.
How does one learn about using laser therapy in wound care? I think the first step is to get acquainted with lasers in general and how to use them. Go to demonstrations about different lasers. The American Academy of Family Physicians had a CME course on lasers with hands-on training, so look for these. Then, research wound care using lasers to see what various providers are doing. Through communication with the laser manufacturer, I know of several other physicians using the laser in managing wounds. Of course, lasers are expensive, so look at sharing costs or using the laser for other applications that will pay. I use a laser to debride, to remove skin lesions, and to treat rosacea and acne – all of which are billable. If you only think of using a scalpel or liquid nitrogen, think about a laser. There is no bleeding, no pain, and no risk of infection with laser therapy.
I do not think laser therapy is the end all, be all in wound care, but it is a wonderful adjunct to use based on my experience treating patients with this modality.
Photo credit: Aletha Tippett. Used with permission.
About The Author
Aletha Tippett MD is a family medicine and wound care expert, founder and president of the Hope of Healing Foundation®, family physician, and international speaker on wound care.
The views and opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of the author, and do not represent the views of WoundSource, Kestrel Health Information, Inc., its affiliates, or subsidiary companies.