With so many doctors renting lasers for their offices, some specialists say there is more danger ahead. Some procedures are even being performed by non-physicians and physicians alike who take crash weekend courses in the procedures.
Thousands of people undergo laser cosmetic surgery each year in the United States, many even on their lunch break.The popularity of the skin laser procedures which include laser hair and spider vein removal as well as new "lunchtime" laser procedures coupled with the fact that most procedures are not covered by health insurance and are directly paid by the patient makes learning and doing the procedure a serious economic benefit to practitioners, who are not necessarily doctors.
But the increased popularity, so-called "lunchtime laser procedures" have nearly doubled in the past 10 years, has also meant an increase in physicians taking weekend courses and renting the laser equipment.
"I have seen some terrible scarring and damage from procedures done by rented machines and people who don't have that much experience with these procedures," says David Goldberg, MD, director of laser research at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine and a lawyer and on theof the Fordham University School of Law in New York.
The problem with renting the equipment, according to Goldberg, is that the machines use up to 30 different lasers and familiarity with them is important. Also, the machines are transported by vans that bounce around and could damage the equipment. With infrequent use that renting would suggest, the practitioners also may not be as versed in the procedures as they should be, Goldberg says.
Most of the medical laser market in the U.S. is a rental market, according to Goldberg. The cost of a machine is about $150,000. But being an intermittent laser surgeon is "like trying to be an electrician on the weekend after taking a crash course in the past," Goldberg says.
"These are machines that put out millions of watts of power," Goldberg said. "Each laser is unique and requires thorough knowledge and hours of hands-on experience."
Goldberg presented several talks on the skin laser procedures at the annual meeting of the American Society for Laser Surgery and Medicine in New Orleans this past weekend.
"By and large, [bad results] are not happening with dermatologists and plastic surgeons," says Goldberg. "But we now have podiatrists doing this and nurses and nurse practitioners and others who take crash weekend courses and rent machines they aren't familiar with and that can cause problems."
"The laser rental industry needs to be regulated," he added. "The laser industry itself also needs to be regulated as to who can use the equipment."