Treatment of acne scars using the plasma skin regeneration (psr) system

Lasers in Surgery and Medicine 40:124–127 (2008) Treatment of Acne Scars Using the Plasma SkinRegeneration (PSR) System MD,1 William H. Sturgill, MD,1 E. Victor Ross, MD,2 and Nathan S. Uebelhoer, DO 1Dermatology Department, Naval Medical Center San Diego, San Diego, California2Scripps Clinic, Division of Dermatology, Cosmetic Dermatology Center, San Diego, California Background and Objectives: Acne scarring is a common required to achieve satisfactory results, and each technique and difficult to treat condition. The plasma skin regenera- carries different risks and side effects.
tion (PSR) system is a novel device that causes delayed The plasma skin regeneration system (PSR; Portrait, ablation of the epidermis and controlled thermal modifica- Rhytec, Inc., Waltham, MA) is a novel device that utilizes tion to the underlying dermis. PSR has previously been radiofrequency (RF) to convert nitrogen gas into a high- shown to be a safe and effective treatment for facial energy state of matter called plasma. The plasma rhytides and benign skin lesions. In this study, we investi- is directed onto the skin with the hand-piece of the device, gated the safety and efficacy of single-treatment, high- delivering thermal energy in a precise manner. The energy, double-pass PSR for the treatment of acne scarring.
device causes part or all of the epidermis to become non- Study Design/Materials and Methods: Ten patients viable; however, with the epidermis intact, it acts as a with acne scarring and Fitzpatrick skin types I–III were biologic dressing until approximately 2–4 days after treat- included in the study. All patients underwent a single PSR ment when peeling begins. The PSR system has been treatment with two high-energy passes (3.5–4.0 J). Treat- advocated as an alternative to ablative and fractional ments were performed in an outpatient clinic setting. Nine resurfacing lasers, with the benefits of lower cost and a patients completed 6 months of follow-up. Improvement better safety profile [3,4]. An in vivo study showed that PSR was determined by patient questionnaires and physician could consistently achieve thermal injury into the papillary evaluation of digital photographs taken prior to treatment dermis resulting in collagen remodeling without per- and at 3 and 6 months post-treatment.
manent pigmentary or textural irregularities [5]. Follow- Results: On average, patients reported 34% improvement ing this, multiple sites demonstrated that facial rhytides in their acne scarring at 3 months and 33% improvement could be safely and effectively improved with this device at 6 months. Blinded physician ratings of patient photos [3,6]. Furthermore, PSR has been shown to remove benign demonstrated 19% improvement at 3 months and 34% at skin lesions with similar efficacy and low complication rate 6 months. Re-epithelialization was complete by 4–6 days as the carbon dioxide (CO2) laser [4].
after treatment, and no serious adverse events were Previous experience with efficacy of the PSR system in treating acne scarring is limited. We hypothesized that the Conclusion: PSR appears to provide a safe and effective PSR system would be effective in improving acne scars, single treatment, minimal downtime alternative for the with minimal down-time and few side effects.
treatment of acne scarring. Additional studies are war-ranted to further demonstrate the safety and efficacy of this device. Lasers Surg. Med. 40:124–127, 2008.
The study protocol was approved by our Institutional Review Board and conformed to the guidelines of the 1975Declaration of Helsinki. Written informed consent was Key words: plasma skin regeneration; acne scars; non- obtained from all patients prior to treatment.
Patients were included in the study if they demonstrated at least a mild degree of atrophic facial acne scarring, were 18 years of age or older, and their acne was either quiescent Despite the widespread use of isotretinoin and other or under adequate control with medications. Exclusion therapies to aggressively treat acne, scarring from this criteria included pregnancy and lactation, Fitzpatrick condition remains a common problem presenting signi- skin type IV or higher, history of collagen vascular disease ficant therapeutic challenges. Several modalities havebeen advocated to treat acne scarring, including surgicaltechniques (punch grafts, punch excisions, subcision), *Correspondence to: Dr. Nathan S. Uebelhoer, DO, Dermatol- ogy Department, Naval Medical Center San Diego, Suite 300, resurfacing techniques (dermabrasion, ablative laser treat- 34,520 Bob Wilson Drive, San Diego, CA 92134.
ment, chemical peels), non-ablative laser treatment, autologous fat transfer, and injection of dermal fillers Published online in Wiley InterScience(
[1,2]. A combination of different modalities is typically or keloids, history of dermal fillers or dermabrasion, oralretinoids in the previous 12 months, topical retinoids in theprevious 2 months, and inability to avoid significant sunexposure during the follow-up period. A total of 10 patientswere enrolled and treated.
Prior to treatment, facial photographs were taken.
Patients were given cephalexin 500 mg BID and acyclovir400 mg TID for bacterial and viral prophylaxis, res-pectively. Pre-operative medications included 75 mg IMmeperidine, 50 mg IM hydroxyzine, 1–2 mg PO lorazepam,and topical 4% lidocaine cream applied 30–45 minutesbefore treatment.
Following a 1 hour training session under the guidance of the principal investigator (NSU), a dermatology resident(MJG) with no prior experience with plasma technologyperformed one treatment on each subject. A single pass ofhigh-energy plasma (3.5–4.0 J) was delivered to theforehead, mouth and cheeks, followed by a second passat 4.0 J over only the acne scarred areas. A thick coat ofpetrolatum was applied to the face after treatment. After24 hours, patients were instructed to wash the face with amild cleanser and to apply dilute white vinegar soaksthree times a day for 1 week following treatment.
Patient questionnaires were completed and photographs were taken on the day of treatment and at 1 week, 2 weeks,1 month, 3 months, and 6 months after treatment. Side-lighting was used to accentuate acne scars at the pre-operative, 3-, and 6-month visits (Fig. 1).
Nine out of 10 patients completed the study and were included in the final analysis. One treated subject thatmissed the 3-month visit was lost to follow-up.
Immediately after treatment, patients were asked to rate their pain level on a scale from 0 to 8. The average painreported was 4.6, corresponding to a level of moderate tosevere based on the scale used (range 3–7). All patientsreported that any discomfort associated with the procedureresolved by the next day.
Desquamation typically began on the third day after treatment, and was complete by the 7-day follow-up visit.
Patients commonly reported that the peeling was completeby 1 or 2 days prior to their 1 week visit (5–6 days post-op).
Pruritus was a common complaint in the first 2 weeks aftertreatment and was controlled with oral antihistamines. Allfacial erythema returned to baseline by the 1 month post-treatment visit. No new textural scarring occurred as aresult of the procedure.
Patients were asked to rate the percentage improvement in their acne scars at 3 and 6 months using a scaledivided into 10 percentage-point increments. Patientsrated the forehead, right cheek, left cheek, and mouth/chin separately, and those numbers were averaged in theanalysis. At 3 months, average patient-rated improvementwas 34.2% (range 5–70%). At 6 months, average improve-ment was 33% (range 2.5–90%).
Fig. 1. A–C: Pre-treatment photographs (left) compared to Seven out of 10 patients followed up for facial photo- 6 months following a single PSR treatment (right) demonstrat- graphy at 3 months, and 9 out of 10 had photography taken ing modest improvement in three separate patients with mild at 6 months. Follow-up photographs were compared with scars (A), moderate acne scarring (B) and severe scarring (C).
pre-treatment views and percentage improvement was in an office setting, avoiding the risks and costs associated rated by a blinded assessor (WHS). The following 6-point with conscious sedation or general anesthesia that may be grading scale was used to rate the before and after photos: necessary with other treatments. Finally, since the PSR is 0 for no improvement, 1 for up to 10% improvement, 2 for up an RF-induced nitrogen plasma device there are no special to 30% improvement, 3 for up to 50% improvement, 4 for up safety measures, such as protective eyewear, required.
to 70% improvement, and 5 for up to 90% improvement.
Although the pain associated with each treatment during The 6 month photos were divided into right-sided and left- the study required significant use of analgesics and sided images and each side was evaluated separately. The anxiolytics, we have since found that the pain can be well 3-month average improvement was rated by the blinded controlled with the adjunctive use of a forced cool air assessor was 19% (n ¼ 7; range 0–50%). At 6 months, chiller. Since the completion of the study, we routinely use the blinded average improvement was 34.4% (n ¼ 9; range forced cool air (Zimmer MedizinSystems, Irvine, CA) in all 5–70%). The highest rated side for each patient resulted in treatments with the PSR alleviating the need for systemic an average of 41.1% improvement overall.
Minor adverse events encountered included hyper- One of the biggest issues with CO2 ablative resurfacing pigmentation in two patients and a recurrence of herpes is the delayed-onset hypopigmentation, which can develop labialis in 1 patient. The hyperpigmentation was first seen 18–24 months post-treatment. To our knowledge, there at the 1-month follow-up in both patients and consisted of a have been no reports of delayed hypopigmentation occur- bronze discoloration in the treated areas of the face. One ring with the PSR system. Indeed, even a study investigat- patient had skin type II, was treated with sunscreen, and ing CO2 laser resurfacing to treat acne scars that involved experienced resolution of the hyperpigmentation by the a cohort of 60 patients with skin types I–V and a follow- 6-month follow-up. The other patient was skin type III, was up time of 18 months showed no occurrences of delayed treated with sunscreen and Tri-Luma, and experienced hypopigmentation [7]. It is possible that acne scarring resolution by 3 months. The herpes labialis occurred in a patients are less likely to experience hypopigmentation patient with a history of recurrent cold sores, despite after resurfacing, compared with the photoaged population complete re-epithelialization and adequate prophylaxis.
in whom this adverse effect has been reported in the past.
Symptoms were reported at day 13, the patient was One limitation to our study is the fact that patients were given a second course of oral acyclovir, and the symptoms only followed for 6 months, which would not be enough resolved within 2 days. No patients reported drainage or follow-up time to capture cases of delayed hypopigmenta- weeping from the treated sites and all erythema had tion, even though we believe this to be an extremely completely resolved by 1 month following the treatment.
No serious adverse events occurred during the follow-up Our study, similar to others that have evaluated modest textural changes of facial skin over time, is also limited bythe use of pre- and post-treatment photography. Although all of our photos were performed by professional photo- We report a blinded average of up to 41% improvement in graphers in the same studio using the same equipment and facial acne scars 6 months after a single high-fluence lighting techniques, variations in exposure and slight treatment with the PSR system. While the magnitude angle differences are noticeable. Despite this, the ratings of improvement that we observed in this study is not as of improvement noted by the blinded evaluator and those of dramatic as that seen with multipass ablative CO2 laser the patients themselves were fairly consistent. In addition, treatment [7], PSR offers several advantages.
our study was limited by the number of patients enrolled.
First, the PSR is less operator dependent than traditional To have converted the trends seen in this study to statistical resurfacing. Most of the desired and adverse effects of CO2 significance would have required a much larger cohort.
and Er:YAG ablative resurfacing are due to the depth ofthermal injury directly related to the operator’s choice of fluence and number of passes. The ability to recognize the In this pilot study, the Portrait PSR appeared to be a level of ablation necessary to achieve dramatic results safe and effective device for treating facial acne scars. It with ablative lasers without causing permanent scarring represents an operator independent single-treatment tool or hypopigmentation requires significant experience and with a relatively tolerable down time. Future studies are skill. Our study demonstrates that, even at high energy, needed to explore the potential of repeat treatments to double pass, the PSR requires minimal operator training to further enhance the textural benefits seen in this study, achieve predictable and safe effects with modest improve- and to further demonstrate the safety and efficacy of the In contrast to aggressive ablative techniques, plasma regeneration maintains the integrity of the epidermisleading to less downtime, in terms of persistent erythema and wound care. Most patients are able to return to their 1. Goodman GJ. Postacne scarring: A review of its pathophysio- typical social activities within 5–7 days after treatment logy and treatment. Dermatol Surg 2000;26:857–871.
2. Jacob CI, Dover JS, Kaminer MS. Acne scarring: A classi- and persistent facial erythema does not appear to be a fication system and review of treatment options. J Am Acad significant risk. Furthermore, treatment may be performed 5. Tremblay JF, Moy RL. Treatment of post-auricular skin using a Bernstein E. Plasmakinetic skin rejuvenation on peri- novel plasma resurfacing system: an in vivo clinical and histologic oral rhytides. Lasers Surg Med Suppl 2004;16:1–90. Ab- study. Lasers Surg Med Suppl 2004;16:1–90. Abstract.
6. Bogle MA, Arndt KA, Dover JS. Evaluation of plasma skin 4. Potter M, Harrison R, Ramsden A, Penny K, Andrews P, regeneration technology in low-energy full-facial rejuvenation.
Gault D. A randomised control trial comparing plasma skin resurfacing (PSR) with carbon dioxide laser in the treatment of 7. Walia S, Alster TS. Prolonged clinical and histologic effects benign skin lesions. Lasers Med Sci 2003;18 (Suppl 1):S1–S67.
from CO2 laser resurfacing of atrophic acne scars. Dermatol


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