Can thermal lasers promote skin wound healing?

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2003;4(1):1-12. doi: 10.2165/00128071-200304010-00001.


Lasers are now widely used for treating numerous cutaneous lesions, for scar revision (hypertrophic and keloid scars), for tissue welding, and for skin resurfacing and remodeling (wrinkle removal). In these procedures lasers are used to generate heat. The modulation of the effect (volatilization, coagulation, hyperthermia) of the laser is obtained by using different wavelengths and laser parameters. The heat source obtained by conversion of light into heat can be very superficial, yet intense, if the laser light is well absorbed (far-infrared:CO(2) or Erbium:Yttrium Aluminum Garnet [Er:YAG] lasers), or it can be much deeper and less intense if the laser light is less absorbed by the skin (visible or near-infrared). Lasers transfer energy, in the form of heat, to surrounding tissues and, regardless of the laser used, a 45-50 degrees C temperature gradient will be obtained in the surrounding skin. If a wound healing process exists, it is a result of live cells reacting to this low temperature increase. The generated supraphysiologic level of heat is able to induce a heat shock response (HSR), which can be defined as the temporary changes in cellular metabolism. These changes are rapid and transient, and are characterized by the production of a small family of proteins termed the heat shock proteins (HSP). Recent experimental studies have clearly demonstrated that HSP 70, which is over-expressed following laser irradiation, could play a role with a coordinated expression of other growth factors such as transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta. TGF-beta is known to be a key element in the inflammatory response and the fibrogenic process. In this process, the fibroblasts are the key cells since they produce collagen and extracellular matrix. In conclusion, the analysis of the literature, and the fundamental considerations concerning the healing process when using thermal lasers, are in favor of a modification of the growth factors synthesis after laser irradiation, induced by an HSR. An extensive review of the different techniques and several clinical studies confirm that thermal lasers could effectively promote skin wound healing, if they are used in a controlled manner.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cicatrix / physiopathology
  • Cicatrix / surgery
  • Dermatologic Surgical Procedures
  • Heat-Shock Response / physiology
  • Humans
  • Laser Coagulation / methods*
  • Laser Therapy / methods*
  • Rhytidoplasty / methods
  • Wound Healing / physiology*