Introduction: Hypertrophic burn scars produce significant morbidity, including itching, pain, stiffness, and contracture. Best practices for management continue to evolve. Lasers have recently been added to treatment algorithms, but indications and efficacy have not been fully defined. We studied the impact of laser therapies on hypertrophic burn scars.
Methods: We conducted a prospective, before-after study in burn patients with hypertrophic scars. Procedures were performed more than 6 months after burn injury and were repeated monthly. The pulsed-dye laser was used for pruritus and erythema, whereas the fractional CO2 laser was used for stiffness and abnormal texture. All procedures were performed in the OR, with anesthesia. Outcomes are as follows: (1) Vancouver Scar Scale (objective changes in pigmentation, erythema, pliability, height; range, 0–15) and (2) UNC Scar Scale (subjective changes in pain, itching, tingling, stiffness; range, 0–12). Before-after scores were compared by Student t test, with significance assigned to P values of <0.05.
Results: During 2011, we treated 147 patients (mean age, 26.9 years; mean TBSA, 16.1%) over 415 sessions (2.8 sessions/patient), including pulsed dye laser (n = 327) and CO2 (n = 139), mean surface area of 83 cm2. Etiology included flame (75), scald (37), and other (35). Treatments occurred 16 months (median) and 48 months (mean) after burn injury. Vancouver Scar Scale decreased from 10.4 (SD, 2.4) to 5.2 (1.9) (P < 0.0001). UNC Scar Scale decreased from 5.4 (2.5) to 2.1 (1.7) (P < 0.0001). Mean length of follow-up was 4.7 months.
Conclusions: Laser therapies significantly improve both the signs and symptoms of hypertrophic burn scars, as measured by objective and subjective instruments.