Successful treatment of acneiform scarring with CO2 ablative fractional resurfacing

Anne M. Chapas, Lori Brightman, Sean Sukal, Elizabeth Hale, David Daniel, Leonard J. Bernstein, Roy G. Geronemus

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

260 Scopus citations


Background: Acneiform scarring after severe episodes of acne is a common cosmetic concern, treatable by a variety of modalities with varying degrees of success. Ablative CO2 laser resurfacing, while effective, is associated with an undesirable side effects profile, lengthy recovery period, and risk of infection as well as potential pigmentary alterations. Newer modalities using the principles of fractional photothermolysis (FP) create patterns of tiny microscopic wounds surrounded by undamaged tissue beneath the skin with an erbium-doped 1,550 nm laser. These devices produce more modest results in many cases than traditional carbon dioxide (CO2) lasers but with fewer side effects and shorter recovery periods. A novel ablative 30 W CO2 laser device uses a technique called ablative fractional resurfacing (AFR), combines CO2 ablation with a FP system. Methods: Thirteen subjects (skin types I-IV, aged 28-58 years) with moderate to severe acne scars underwent two or three treatments with the AFR device at 1-2 months intervals. Post-treatment erythema and edema as well as improvements in texture, atrophy, and overall satisfaction with appearance were graded on a quartile scale by subjects and investigators after each treatment and 1 and 3 months after the final treatment. Petechiae, oozing and crusting, dyschromia, and scarring were graded as present or absent 3 days, 1 week, 1 month, and 3 months following each treatment. A three-dimensional optical profiling system (Primos imaging) was used to generate a high resolution topographic representation of the acneiform scar in order to measure the depths of 10 scars from each cheek prior to the first treatment and 3 months after the last treatment. Results: Post-treatment side effects were mild to moderate and transient, resolving rapidly within the study period. No delayed onset hypo-pigmentation or permanent scarring was observed. Quartile grading scores correlating to at least 26-50% improvements in texture, atrophy, and overall improvement were noted in all patients. Primos topographic analysis showed that all patients had quantifiable objective improvement in the depths of acneiform scars that ranged from 43% to 79.9% with a mean level of improvement of 66.8%. Conclusion: Successfully combining ablative technology with FP, AFR treatments constitute a safe and effective treatment modality for acneiform scarring.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)381-386
Number of pages6
JournalLasers in Surgery and Medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2008
Externally publishedYes


  • Acne scars
  • Carbon dioxide
  • Fractional resurfacing


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