Laser Resurfacing for Skin Damaged by Radiation Therapy?

I had radiation therapy for squamous cell carcinoma on my tongue. My neck was also radiated due to the fact that the cancer had metasisized to my lymph glands. After 8 years the skin on my neck is still very red and tough-feeling. I am looking into laser treatments for mildly sagging and freckled skin on my face, and I wondered if the laser would be 1. safe, and 2. effective for the radiation damage.

Doctor Answers 2

Difficult to achieve tightening with lasers without increased risk

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Certainly there might be a greater risk for scarring on your neck if a laser such as Fraxel Restore were used. Normally it is very safe for the neck, but with the radiation having thinned the skin somewhat, there could be more of a reaction and poor healing. A test spot can be done first to see how you heal. The Fraxel may help the freckling but I don’t think you can have a safe tightening laser for the sagging without increased risk. The V-beam laser can be used to lessen the redness but it too should be used conservatively.

Manhattan Dermatologic Surgeon
4.9 out of 5 stars 39 reviews

Laser treatments after radiation therapy

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My first advice to you would be to see a Facial Plastic Surgeon for a consultation. We are uniquely qualified to deal with head and neck cancer, its treatment modalities and consequences, and to address rejuvenation therapies. The honest answer is that there is not enough research to know how the currently available laser modalities, including fractional CO2 resurfacing will affect the previously irradiated skin. In the past, history of radiation therapy was considered a contraindication for laser resurfacing. I would be extremely careful considering any laser procedures. I’ve treated patients with the history of radiation therapy to the head and neck area with Botox and Restylane injections with great results, but I would likely refuse to do a laser resurfacing on such patients. The skin is usually too compromised and the healing will likely be complicated. The same goes for any device, including Plasma Portrait, Fraxel, and other resurfacing modalities. I know this is disappointing, but it is best to be conservative, than to deal with scarring and poor healing.

Stella Desyatnikova, MD
Seattle Facial Plastic Surgeon

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.