Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

UC Irvine

UC Irvine Previously Published Works bannerUC Irvine

Imaging of the irradiation of skin with a clinical CO2 laser system: implications for laser skin resurfacing.


Background and objective

Several published reports describe the benefits of using the carbon dioxide laser for cutaneous resurfacing. The mechanisms on which skin resurfacing work are still not completely understood. This study was performed to obtain quantitative and qualitative information describing the thermal response of skin during high-energy, short-pulsed CO2 laser irradiation.

Study design/materials and methods

A Tissue Technologies TruPulse CO2 laser was used to irradiate an in vivo rat model. The laser parameters that were used were a 100-micros pulse width, a 1-Hz repetition rate, a 3 mm x 3 mm square spot size, and 2.4 J/cm2 and 3.9 J/cm2 radiant exposures. A 3-5 microm thermal camera was used to obtain temperature information during irradiation. Single spots were irradiated with one pulse, and the temperature-time history was obtained. In a different experiment, 15 pulses were applied to single spots, and both thermal and video images were obtained.


Irradiation with one pulse at 2.4 J/cm2 and 3.9 J/cm2 led to peak temperatures >100 degrees C. The temperature relaxation time was approximately 25-150 ms. Multiple-pulse irradiation at 2.4 J/cm2 led to a slight rise in the peak temperature with each pulse. At 3.9 J/cm2, the peak temperature increased with successive pulses until pulse 10, after which the peak temperature oscillated between 300 and 400 degrees C. Video images showed concurrent burning events that occurred during pulses 10-15.


Temperatures >100 degrees C were measured during CO2 laser irradiation of skin. Pulse stacking can lead to peak temperatures approaching 400 degrees C and to tissue charring with as few as three stacked pulses. It is crucial for the physician to manipulate the laser handpiece at parameters with which he or she can avoid pulse overlap.

Many UC-authored scholarly publications are freely available on this site because of the UC's open access policies. Let us know how this access is important for you.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View