General information on laser-therapy of the skin
- Qualification of the treating medical doctor / certificate of qualification
As a general rule, we would like to point out that laser-treatment of the skin should only be performed by medical doctors or under their direct supervision. Treatment of the skin with energy-lasers by cosmeticians or similar professions should be strictly avoided. This is in accordance with the recommendation of the state laser protection commission (Strahlenschutzkommission der Bundesregierung): Dangers of laser-applications on human skin (Website: www.ssk.de). Unfortunately, not every medical doctor who claims to be a laser specialist has received sufficient training in this technique. Therefore, the German Dermatologic Laser Society (Deutsche-Dermatologische Lasergesellschaft, DDL) has established a registry of more than 108 dermatologists who are specially trained in laser-therapy of the skin (www.ddl.de). Further qualifications can be achieved through a 2-year training course leading to the Diploma of Aesthetic Laser-Medicine D.A.L.M. (www.laserstudium.de).
In any case, we recommend that you turn to a board certified dermatologist who specializes in laser-therapy for your individual problem (as also dentists, ENT and ophthalmologists offer laser-therapy of the skin!). Individual specialists should also offer referral to a collegue in case the necessary laser for a special application is not available in his private practice. Unfortunately, by law, there are no rules and regulations for quality control for laser-therapy as far as laser-therapy of the skin is concerned. The only requirement (by insurance companies) is a so-called laser protection course for people who deal with lasers.
Every laser-treatment should be preceeded by a thorough consultation with the patient on the method to be used as well as alternative treatment options and risks of laser-therapy. Primarily, it needs to be assessed whether the skin lesion may be treated by laser. The more extensive the therapy, the more detailed explanations should be. We also find photographs very useful that document the course of treatment, so the patient may better understand what to expect from his individual therapy. Some laser-treatments involve - during the normal course of therapy - crust-formation or extreme bruising which resolves within 1 to 2 weeks.
- Treatment costs: Estimates and realistic prices
Currently, there are two ways laser therapy can be payed for.
- Charges according to the fixed fees for medical doctors (GOÄ) which apply to individual billing and patients with private health insurance. In these cases, specific numbers are applied, according to the area of the treated skin lesions. Some medical indications, e.g. treatment of port-wine stains, are also covered by the state health insurance, however, most cosmetic /aesthetic indications have to be payed for by the patients themselves.
- Some private institutes offer fixed prices for their laser-treatment. However, in general it is difficult to have a fixed treatment price as the available lasers as well as training of the individual doctors may differ greatly.
Some laser-treatments (e.g. skin refurcing) require specific post-treatment which may be more important than the actual laser-therapy itself. As it may take several weeks, the help of a cosmetician might be useful. Should any unwanted side-effects occur, patients should contact their doctor immediately so an adequate intervention can be initiated.
- Operations abroad
It needs to be carefully assessed in which countries certain procedures are carried out. In the US, high standards for training and modern laser equipment exist. Also, the American Society for Laser-Medicine and Surgery (ASLMS, www.aslms.org) oversees and certifies training of laser-therapists. Similar standards hold true for countries of the European Union. However, caution is warranted in countires that offer cheap laser-deals, as often adequate education, modern equipment or extensive pre- and post-treatment options are not available. In case of malpractice law suits, patients are not protected. Due to the development of modern laser systems for various aesthetic /cosmetic treatment indications of the skin, laser-therapy is "in fashion". Nowadays, it is possible to treat vascular or pigment changes of the skin or to remove hair permanently as well as perform skin reiuvenation and skin resurfacing (removing wrinkles and age-associated pigment changes) at minimal risk. Further information can be found on our website www.ddl.de.