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Laser Treatment of Burn Scars on the Today Show: Miracle or Not?


On May 28th the Today Show ran a very interesting segment about a very touching story of very pretty triplets that were badly burned in infancy and were treated with a new laser treatment to improve their burn scars.  The laser was the Lumenis Encore laser and the Deep FX laser, also made by Lumenis.

I have received many phone calls from excited patients who have burn scars or have relatives with burn scars, requesting the “new miracle laser that cures burn scars on the face and body”.  I want to say that I have the very laser that was featured and I am a huge fan of Lumenis lasers.  I also want to say that I am a bit disappointed that the general public may have come away from this feature with the idea that a huge breakthrough in burn treatment has been discovered.  I truly hope that it will advance the treatment of burn scars because that would truly be a huge advancement for humanity and the people that suffer from burn scars.  As a father of two severely disabled young sons, I personally know a parents heartache of seeing a disfigured child.

One problem of the media taking hold of a “new” treatment is that it is frequently presented as a huge worldwide breakthrough in medical advancements.  Sometimes it may be, but most frequently, these stories sensationalize these treatments and put the cart before the horse.  The problem is that viewers get the idea that this is world changing technology.  If a treatment is available that could truly and radically improve burn scars, it would be Noble Prize worthy, not just Today Show worthy.  We have seen the Today Show (and Oprah and other shows) present such “huge surgical advances” as the Thread Lift, The Fraxel laser, the Liquid Facelift and many other procedures that sounded sensational, but proved to be almost useless, let alone a breakthrough.  The key phrase with so many of these treatments is that “the results exceed the expectations”.

Dr. Jill Weibel is a friend of mine and she is one of the nicest and most compassionate doctors I have met and a leader in laser technology.  I believe this type of laser treatment for burns is in the really early stages of usage and that much more long term follow up must be done.  A study by a university burn center with long term follow up would be news worthy.  Single treatments with admittedly minor improvement (the video I saw showed one of the triplets stating that she thinks that she and her boyfriend can see a little improvement is not testimony for a medical breakthrough.  I say this realizing that she has only had a single treatment and perhaps more improvement will be observable with additional treatments.  I hope this is the case because Lumenis is a credible company that would love to be part of such a break through.  I do think, however, that the “miracle” hype on this story is premature and has been presented in too much of a sensational way.  The only bad thing about this is that it can lead the tens of thousands of burn patients to think that something has arrived to change their life.  I wish it were true, but I personally don’t think it is.  I really want it to be true.

Too often the media sensationalizes medical treatments and the public gets misled.  I am not expecting this treatment to be as sensational as presented and it is my fear that like the numerous patients that have contacted me that thousands of others around the country may be given false hope.  My phone rang many times after this story ran and I too have used the Deep FX technology on scars.  The thought of improvement with the new is exciting but it is too early to brand it as a “miracle”.  As academic surgeons like Dr. Weibel and others continue to blaze new trails with this type of fractional laser, the cosmetic treatment of burn scars may become a reality.

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Joe Niamtu, III DMD

Cosmetic Facial Surgery

Richmond, Virginia

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Joe Niamtu III, DMD
11319 Polo Place
Midlothian, VA 23113

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