High versus moderate energy use of bipolar fractional radiofrequency in the treatment of acne scars: a split-face double-blinded randomized control trial pilot study

Lasers Med Sci. 2016 Feb;31(2):229-34. doi: 10.1007/s10103-015-1850-2. Epub 2015 Dec 28.


Bipolar fractional radiofrequency (FRF) device was firstly FDA-approved for treating atrophic acne scar in 2008 through the process of dermal coagulation and minimal epidermal ablation. The average energy at 60 mJ/pin was widely used to treat atrophic acne scars. However, the higher energy was delivered, the deeper ablation and coagulation were found. At present, the new generation of a device with bipolar FRF technology with electrode-pin tip was developed to maximize ability to deliver energy up to 100 mJ/pin. The objective of the study was to explore and compare the efficacy of utilizing high energy (100 mJ/pin) and moderate energy (60 mJ/pin) of bipolar fractional radiofrequency in treatment of atrophic acne scar in Asians. This is a split-face, double-blinded, randomized control trial, pilot study by using parallel group design technique. Thirty healthy subjects with Fitzpatrick skin phototype III-IV diagnosed as atrophic acne scares were enrolled. All subjects received four monthly sessions of bipolar FRF treatment. Left and right facial sides of individual patients were randomly assigned for different energy (high energy at 100 mJ/pin versus moderate energy at 60 mJ/pin). Acne scars improvement was blinded graded by dermatologist using global acne scarring score (GASS) which was subjectively evaluated at baseline, 1-, 3-, and 6-month follow-up. Objective scar analysis was also done using UVA-light video camera to measure scar volume, skin smoothness, and wrinkle at baseline, 3-, and 6-month follow-up after the last treatment. Side effects including pain, erythema, swelling, and crusting were also recorded. Thirty subjects completed the study with full 4-treatment course. The mean GASS of high energy side and moderate energy side was significantly reduced at 1-, 3-, and 6-month follow-up visits. At 1 month follow-visit, high energy side demonstrated significant improvement compared with moderate energy side (p = 0.03). Postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) developed in 21/120 sessions in high energy side (17.5 %) and 16/120 sessions in moderate energy side (13.3 %). Pain score and the duration of erythema after treatments were significant higher on the side that was treated with high energy. Bipolar FRF device was safe and effective in the treatment of atrophic acne scars in Asians. High energy setting demonstrated significant higher efficacy at 1 month follow-visit. However, the efficacy of both energy settings was comparable at 3- and 6-month follow-up. In addition, side effects were significantly more intense on the side treated with high energy.

Keywords: Acne scars; Bipolar fractional radiofrequency; Energy.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acne Vulgaris / complications*
  • Adult
  • Atrophy / complications
  • Cicatrix / complications*
  • Cicatrix / pathology
  • Cicatrix / therapy*
  • Cosmetic Techniques
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Face / pathology
  • Face / radiation effects
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Phototherapy / methods*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Radiofrequency Therapy*

Associated data

  • TCTR/TCTR20150629004