Fractionated Carbon Dioxide Laser

Dr. Irwin performs all Carbon Dioxide (CO2) laser treatments herself at our dermatology office in Seattle. Dr. Irwin has been working with lasers since the early 1990s, and our office has been providing laser treatments since we were founded in 1999.

What is fractionated CO2 laser surgery?  Fractionated CO2 laser resurfacing is a procedure utilized to improve and repair sun damaged skin, wrinkles, acne scars and surgical scars.  The CO2 laser emits an intense beam of light that removes the damaged skin allowing healthy new skin to grow in its place.  The beam itself is split into hundreds of tiny beams instead of being a solid column of light.  Remember, lasers are just much more focused, powerful beams of light.

How is this different from traditional CO2 laser resurfacing?  Although it uses the same carbon dioxide gas as a medium and thus has the same wavelength, the beam is fractionated into hundreds of tiny pixels.  This allows “skip areas” of normal skin which makes the skin heal much more rapidly and with very little risk of scarring, infection or pigment changes that were seen with traditional CO2 lasers.

What should I expect after laser surgery?  CO2 laser resurfacing causes the skin to become pink and there is some peeling for 4-7 days afterwards.  Dr. Irwin will estimate the time for you more exactly because it depends on the lasers settings used that day, which is based on the amount of skin repair needed.

In general, the deeper the treatment, the longer it takes to heal.

If you are having a maintenance treatment expect 3-4 days of down time (Thursday-Sunday), back at work on Monday with makeup. With maintenance treatments Dr. Irwin uses about ½ the energy she would for a repair laser treatment.

You could remain pink for 2-4 weeks after the treatment.  This can be covered with make-up.  Dr. Irwin and her staff will go over with you in detail how to plan for the post-laser period.

Is it painful?  There is usually minimal discomfort because we apply an anesthetic cream 1 hour before the procedure and we give you one dose of a strong anti-inflammatory (Toradol, like Aleve).  We also use a powerful, cooling machine (a Zimmer) to cool the skin while we work.  It may feel like a light sunburn for an hour or two after your treatment, but cold packs may be used to cool the skin and reduce post-procedure swelling.

Are my eyes in danger?  No, we put cushioned, laser eye shields in the eye (a special laser contact lens) after numbing the surface of the eye with eye drops.

Can I exercise after my CO2 laser?  Not for the first week after your CO2. Normal activity and walking is okay.  It is important to avoid vigorous activity/ heat exposure because it may make you more puffy or red.  If resuming exercise outdoors after the first week, you must double sunscreen the areas that were treated with the CO2.

Who should NOT have CO2 laser treatments?  You shouldn’t have laser treatments if you are pregnant, have been on Accutane in the past 6 months, have a history of difficulty healing or keloid scars, or are on Prednisone.  Discuss with Dr. Irwin if you are on anticoagulants or have had chemotherapy in the past 6 months.  There are alternatives to this procedure available to you, such as accepting your present skin condition, using cosmetics, or considering surgery.

What does CO2 laser resurfacing cost?  The cost depends on the area we are treating. Costs range from $1950-$3500 per treatment.  This amount includes all pre-op and post-op visits, the laser surgery itself and the anesthetics used.  Patients must pay for their own prescriptions separately.  Sometimes Botox is used 2 weeks before or after the laser treatment.  That cost is separate.  If labs or cultures are needed, the visit and labs/cultures will be billed to your medical insurance.

A consultation with Rita Bauer, RN is required before treatment. If you are wanting to treat acne scars, a medical evaluation of your acne will be needed prior to your cosmetic consultation with Rita. If you would like to schedule a consultation, please call 206 215 6600.

Click here to see Dr. Irwin’s Guide to Fractionated Carbon Dioxide Laser Treatment