Advances in the treatment of burn scars with intense pulsed light, laser and radiofrequency

Henry Li1, Sally Ng1, Jie Li2, Yixin Zhang2

1 Monash Health, 246 Clayton Rd, Clayton, VIC, 3168,

2 Department of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, Shanghai Ninth People Hospital, Affiliated to Shanghai Jiao Tong University School of Medicine, Shanghai, China


Burn related scarring could lead to functional, aesthetic and psychological consequences for patients, leading to significant morbidity. Light-based therapies, laser-based therapies and radiofrequency have demonstrated promising results in improving the scar quality and reduce pruritis. The objective of this review is to summarise the current literature surrounding laser-based modalities for burn scar management.


A review of the current literature was performed by searching PubMed, Medline and Embase databases with MeSH and keyword searches. Observational studies, case reports and series, comparative studies, randomised controlled trials and systematic reviews from between 1995 and 2019 were read, stratified by level of evidence and summarised.

Results and conclusion:

Initially, the immature burn scar is hypervascular, containing oxy-haemoglobin, collagen and water. Therapies that target these chromophores are hence useful in the immature scar. Intense pulsed light is useful in targeting the vasculature of scars and can treat immature scars. The treatment of mature burn scars with lasers involves targeting the dermal architecture. Therapies such as CO2 laser, PDL, Q-switched Nd:YAG and are useful for this. Radiofrequency has also been shown to be a useful adjunct in the management of scars. Light-based and laser-based therapies are effective in improving burn scars with minimal adverse effects and should be included in management protocols alongside other non-surgical options.



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Henry is a surgical resident at Monash Heath with an interest in plastic and reconstructive surgery.

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