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Dermabrasion is a procedure to improve the look of the skin involving the mechanical removal of the damaged top layer using a high speed rotary wheel. Although used much less often since the advent of laser resurfacing, dermabrasion continues to be a viable treatment that has been reported to have quicker healing times, similar rates of complications, and is more effective in eliminating some types of lesions, particularly surgical scars.
Before the procedure begins, medication is often given to relax the patient and reduce pain. For small areas, local anaesthetic nerve blocks are often used to numb the area being treated.
Because there are several different skin surfacing techniques now available, the initial meetings with the dermatological or plastic surgeon must ensure that dermabrasion is the technique of choice for the particular skin abnormality and location that is being treated.
After the procedure, any treated areas are dressed for healing. It is changed daily for about five days, then the wound is left open to the air. This kind of treatment speeds the restoration of the epithelium, the cellular covering of the body. Using this technique, healing occurs in about five to seven days.
Generally, the patient is given pain medication, antibiotics , and anti-swelling medication during recovery. Patients should avoid the sun during the healing process.
The most common complication of the procedure is the formation of keloid, a type of abnormal scar that results from excessive collagen production. Because this type of scarring tends to be associated with darker skin types, patients with this kind of skin should approach dermabrasion with caution. Other potential complications include abnormal pigmentation of the treated skin, persistent redness of the skin, and a localized dilation of small groups of blood vessels called telangiectasia. Finally, the formation of milia, bumps that form due to obstruction of the sweat glands, although this can be treated after healing with retinoic acid.
Normal results include significant improvement in the appearance of the skin's surface after healing of the skin. It should be emphasized, however, that many scars will not be completely removed and the change in appearance is to due a softening of the edges of the abnormality, not elimination. If a patient cannot tolerate a residual presence of the scar or other abnormality, the treatment should not be used.