Medical Technology

Panel Recommends Energy-Based Devices to Treatment of Acne Scars

International consensus recommendations on the use of energy‐based devices (EBDs) for the treatment of acne scars published in Lasers in Surgery and Medicine call for EBDs to be used as first-line treatment for acne scars.

Peter R. Shumaker, MD, a dermatologist and dermatologic surgeon at the VA San Diego Healthcare System and one of the authors of the paper, noted that a panel of 24 international experts in dermatology and plastic surgery assembled to develop the recommendations for integrating EBDs into the management of acne scarring.

“The advent of fractional laser technology in the mid-2000s ushered in an exciting new period of exploration and advances in scar treatment with EBDs,” Shumaker said in an interview. “Despite intense interest and a wealth of available literature, international treatment guidelines and patient access to these potentially life-changing treatments are currently lagging behind our capabilities.”

One of the key recommendations of the paper is that EBDs should have an expanded role in the treatment of acne scars, according to Shumaker, who is also an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California, San Diego. “Panel members were unanimous in their view that EBDs, particularly ablative and nonablative fractional lasers, vascular lasers, and fractional radiofrequency devices, have an important role in the management of acne scars and should be considered a first-line treatment for a variety of scar types,” he said.

The process of developing the recommendations included developing clinical questions, based on input from the panelists and a literature review, and using a two-step modified Delphi method, “an iterative process used to achieve consensus for a defined clinical problem where there is little or conflicting published evidence and where expert opinion is decisive,” the authors write. This involved email questionnaires highlighting different topics, including the role of EBD in mitigating and treating acne scars in patients with active acne, the use of different EBDs for treating different types of acne scars, and considerations in treating skin of color.

The panel noted considerations in the treatment of acne scars in skin of color. “Regardless of the platform, patients with darker skin types may require treatment modifications including: a reduction in fluence/pulse energy; decreased microcolumn density; greater intervals between treatments; longer pulse durations; epidermal cooling with fastidious technique to ensure appropriate cooling, additional cooling in between passes to decrease bulk heating; and pretreatment and posttreatment topical regimens (e.g., retinoids, bleaching creams, etc.) and strict sun precautions,” write the authors.

Panelists agreed that there is an absence of large, well-controlled, multicenter comparative trials of various laser and energy treatments for acne scars. “Such trials would be helpful in establishing the relative utility and persistence of benefit of various laser treatments and also in comparing their effectiveness versus that of nonenergy treatments,” write the authors.

Asked to comment on the paper, Andrei Metelitsa, MD, a dermatologist in Calgary, Canada, and clinical associate professor at the University of Calgary, said the consensus recommendations on EBDs in acne scarring are “providing an international expert perspective, potentially changing a long-perceived paradigm of treatments.”

Metelitsa pointed out that the authors are taking a solid position with respect to reducing the delay to initiation of laser treatment following isotretinoin therapy. “The authors take a strong stance against the old dogma of postponing laser resurfacing for at least 6 months post isotretinoin,” he said. “According to the authors, there is sufficient evidence to support the idea of safely starting laser therapies, including fractional ablative and nonablative, within 1 month post isotretinoin, much sooner than previously suggested.”

He added that the authors point to the fact most experts utilize vascular lasers, such as pulsed-dye, to treat active acne in combination with medical therapy, thus reducing duration and severity of inflammation and potentially reducing further scar formation. “According to this published consensus, such laser therapies can even be used while the patient is actively treated with isotretinoin,” he said.

Metelitsa noted that the consensus recommendations outline how the choice of device should be guided by the clinical subtype of acne scars.

Shumaker, Metelitsa, and the authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships

Lasers Surg Med. Published online October 3, 2021. Full text

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