David Gault, FRCS, consultant plastic surgeon and international laser expert, speaks out against the Department of Health’s proposal to deregulate laser and Intense Pulsed Light (IPL) devices for aesthetic treatments. Gault, who helped develop the first hair-removing laser more than 18 years ago, is concerned that these measures will lead to permanent complications in patients.

"Just because a laser is used for cosmetic purposes, it does not mean that it is any less dangerous," says Gault. "There have been an increasing number of cases where their incorrect use has resulted in patients ending up ‘spotted’ like a leopard with either circular patches of brown or black pigmentation or white patches of depigmentation."

According to Gault, if administered by untrained physicians, these treatments can result in skin blisters, burns, sores, and pigment scarring. Clinical expertise is required to analyze and choose the best treatment for different colors of hair in depilation. Misdiagnosis of a precancerous pigmented lesion as "aesthetic" can mean that the early signs are missed and the opportunity to cure is lost.

Gault says that many patients are treated inappropriately with either the wrong laser, or with the right laser, but the wrong settings. General practitioners, who are often not consulted when a patient chooses to have laser treatments, are later forced to get involved when complications result from an inexperienced practitioner.

"It seems entirely inappropriate that the Government should seek to deregulate this type of treatment when within the last year I have seen more cases of complications following laser and IPL treatments than ever before, and if any changes in regulation should be proposed at all, they should be to control their use more stringently—not less," he says.

To ensure the best results, Gault recommends that patients stay out of the sun for several weeks before and after treatments.

[www.medicalnewstoday.com, March 27, 2008]