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Semin Cutan Med Surg. 2000 Dec;19(4):253-66.

Active skin cooling in conjunction with laser dermatologic surgery.

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Beckman Laser Institute and Medical Clinic, Department of Surgery, University of California, Irvine 92612, USA.


The clinical objective in the laser treatment of patients with specific dermatoses is to maximize thermal damage to the target chromophore while minimizing injury to the normal skin. Unfortunately, for some lesions, the threshold incident light dosage for epidermal injury can be very close to the threshold for permanent removal of the target chromophore, thus precluding the use of higher light dosages. An important method of overcoming the aforementioned problem is to selectively cool the most superficial layers of the skin. Although melanin absorption will result in heat production during laser exposure, cooling the epidermis can prevent its temperature elevation from exceeding the threshold for thermal injury. Spatially selective cooling can be achieved by active cooling using a cryogen spray or cold sapphire contact handpieces. These devices promote rapid and spatially selective epidermal cooling to low temperatures without affecting the target chromophore temperature before the laser pulse is delivered. Cooling has become an Integral part in the emerging discipline of laser dermatologic surgery. Attend almost any academic dermatology conference and you are likely to find many lectures that relate to cooling during dermatologic laser surgery. Although cooling in conjunction with laser therapy has become the clinical standard for many laser procedures, considerable controversy surrounds this methodology. We present herewith an overview of currently used techniques for active cooling of human skin and explore their advantages and disadvantages in relationship to specific dermatoses amenable to laser therapy.

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