SPRINGFIELD, Mo. The bright red light from a laser travels along a patient's scar tissue, turning the brownish skin into a white color that looks like tire tracks.
The procedure is the resurfacing of damaged skin being done by Mercy's new Fractional CO2 Laser that's actually creating new wounds in old scar tissue.
"So the scars, anytime it forms, tightens up underneath (the skin) because your body is trying to heal itself," explained Dr. Krisi Causa, who's done the procedure on about 20 patients since Mercy started using the laser on scar tissue this past year. "But in order to get it back to its regular texture pre-injury, you have to basically injure it again to allow it to heal and get that softer tissue."
After it heals, that resulting softer skin can improve range of motion and lessen pain.
"It's amazing," said 66 year-old metal worker Ron Otradovec, who started the treatments after a traumatic injury two years ago when an 1,800-pound piece of steel fell on his right leg, breaking it so badly he needed a skin graft from his left leg and titanium rods inserted in the injured one to get him upright again.
"I was in a wheelchair," Otradovec said with a sigh. "It wasn't a lot of fun."
He said that while the treatment can produce a little bee-sting type pain at times, it's worth it.
For a man who almost had his leg amputated, the laser treatment combined with his physical therapy has produced results that were unthinkable at the time of his injury.
"Nothing short of a miracle," Otradovec said of the improvement in his mobility. "I can pretty well do what I want now. If this had happened to me 20 years ago I would have lost it (his leg)."
"It's a life-changing treatment," Dr. Causa said. "You can go from somebody like Ron who wouldn't have been able to work or move his leg or potentially have lost his leg because you can develop wounds and have all sorts of complications, and now he's walking around like you or I."
While burn victims are the prime benefactors in this type of laser treatment, the procedure can be used on any type of traumatic injury or surgical scars and there's no time limit as any scar, no matter how old, can be treated.
"It doesn't even have to be that big," Dr. Causa said. "If it's impeded your range of motion, if it's thickened or the color's not right we can see them, assess them, and they could be appropriate for this procedure."
Cox Health told us they do not perform such laser-related procedures on scar tissue but do use a similar laser for facial facial resurfacing to treat things like acne, sun-damaged or aging skin.