By Debbie Gregory.
A major military medical improvement is coming in the field of dermatology and plastic surgery, specifically in the recovery and care for wounded warrior burn victims.
Laser use in the field of military medicine is steadily growing. This growth is based on the versatility of laser light. The characteristics of laser light are defined by its wavelength, pulsed or continuous wave operation as well as its average power. The unique capabilities to tailor laser light to a particular application opens up a wide space for laser tissue interaction.
59th Medical Specialty Squadron Dermatologist Lt. Col. (Dr.) Chad Hivnor treats battle scars on troops injured in Operations Iraqi and Enduring Freedom using a fractional laser. Dr. Hivnor was recently selected to receive the Air Force Association’s Paul W. Myers Award for his work using lasers to improve skin texture and flexibility for wounded warriors. The increase in soldiers with bad burns, many of which result in amputation, has driven Dr. Hivnor’s quest to develop a better solution for scar treatment. The fractional CO2 laser treat scars, which not only helps the skin develop and heal better from the base up, but also helps it to soften and relax, greatly improving the comfort and range of motion. Dr Hivnor tells some great stories about how these new scar treatments have made a huge difference to the lives of these wounded warriors.
Due to advances in medical care, the number of individuals who survive serious burns has increased in the U.S. to approximately 1 million per year. Unfortunately, many of those surviving burn victims have severe disfigurements. These people include injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Fractional ablative lasers have become an amazing tool for correcting both the aesthetic and functionality issues presented by serious burn scars. The laser vaporizes the scar by heating the skin up to greater than 100°C. The scarred area is replaced by brand new healthy collagen. Over a series of treatments, the skin appears much more normal.
Scar treatment techniques continue to develop as ongoing global conflict causes greater numbers of military personnel suffering from severe scarring, particularly from burns. Such scars look bad, but they usually cause a loss in function that can have a great impact upon the sufferers’ lives.