J Cosmet Dermatol. 2021;00:1–6.
1 | INTRODUCTIO N
Acne vulgaris is one of the most common skin diseases; it will af-
fect one out of two people in their lifetimes and about 8 0% of
people aged between 11 and 30 years.1– 3 Acne scarring, a common
complication, develops to some degree in the majority of acne suf-
ferers.4 Scars are divided into three general categories: ice- pick
scars, rolling scars, and boxcar scars5 and are a result of exces-
sive inflammation, acne severity, physical manipulation of the skin,
and a delay in seeking adequate treatment.3 It affects people both
physically and emotionally worldwide, regardless of sex, age, and
ethnicity.2,6 There is also a negative societal perception of acne
scars.7 Unfortunately, many cases of acne remain untreated or
are treated sub- optimally, and patients that later develop acne
scarring often need acne scarring treatment. None of the cur-
rently available treatments achieve a complete resolution of scars,
and thus, prevention of scarring by early and aggressive acne
treatment is the best option.8 There are many different treatment
modalities for acne scarring, such as chemical peeling, retinoids,
dermabrasion, microneedling, subcision, surgical excision, dermal
fillers, platelet- rich plasma (PRP), and different energy- based de-
vices. Evidently, a combination of various treatment modalities
gives better results than monotherapy.8,9 Energy- based devices,
such as intense pulsed light (IPL), radiofrequency, and lasers, have
gained popularity as part of the scar treatment arsenal in recent
years. The ablative 2940 nm Er:YAG and 10 600 nm CO2 lasers
have been used in treating various types of scars. However, due
to adverse effects such as edema, erythema, dyspigmentation,
Received: 26 July 2021
Revised: 13 September 2021
Accepted: 4 Oc tober 2021
Acne scar treatment using high- energy fractional nanosecond
Q- switched 1064 nm laser
Nasrin Mani MD1 | Anže Zorman2
This is an op en access ar ticle under the terms of the Creat ive Commo ns Attri bution-NonC o mmercia l License, wh ich permit s use, distribution an d reproduc tion
in any medium, provide d the original work is properly cited an d is not used for co mmercial purposes.
© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology published by Wiley Periodic als LLC.
1La Jolla Cosmetic L aser Clinic , La Jolla,
2Medilase Ljubljana Slovenia, Ljubljana,
Anže Zorm an, Medilase, Ljubljana,
Slovenia , Tbilisijska ulica 59 Ljubljana
Aims: The objective of this study was to evaluate the effectiveness and safety of
high- energy ablative fractional nanosecond Q- switched 1064 nm laser therapy for
Material and methods: Forty- six patients aged from 16 to 69 years and of Fitzpatrick
skin type from 2 to 4 were included in this retrospective study. Multiple passes were
delivered with a fractional 1064- nm handpiece at high energy. Results were evaluated
using blinded analysis of patient before and after photographs and also by evaluating
Results: Most patients (75%) were improved or very improved according to blinded
evaluation. Patient satisfaction was high. No hypo/hyperpigmentation, scarring, or
any other side effects were reported by any of the patients.
Conclusions: The study demonstrated good clinical outcomes in facial acne scar man-
agement with a high patient satisfaction rate and no adverse side effects.
acne scars, fractional, laser, Q- switched 1064 nm
M ANI ANd ZORMAN
and significant downtime, a search for a better alternative con-
tinues.10– 1 4 One of the options to reduce the downtime and risk
for side effects is to use a non- ablative wavelength and frac-
tional delivery. In recent years, new studies have shown that the
fractional Q- switched (nanosecond and picosecond) laser can be
highly effective in the treatment of acne scars and other indica-
tions with minimal side effects. However, most of these studies
have used lower, non- ablative fluences.15– 20 The aim of our study
was to assess the efficacy and safet y of Nd:YAG laser treatments
using a higher, ablative fluence that in our experience gives better
results with fewer sessions when compared to lower, non- ablative
2 | METHODS
2.1 | Patients
Forty- six subjects (9 males and 37 females) that had been treated
for acne scars at La Jolla Cosmetic Laser Clinic (California, USA)
between February 2018 and October 2020 using the treatment
protocol described below were included in this retrospective
study. The age of the participants ranged from 16 to 69 years (av-
erage 34.8 years) with Fitzpatrick skin types from 2 to 4. Inclusion
criteria were as follows: (1) age ≥16 years, (2) presence of acne
scarring, (3) no severe underlying diseases, and (4) willingness to
follow- up and comply with the study protocol. Exclusion criteria
included untreated and active/ongoing acne vulgaris or those
patients who had infection present in the area of the treatment
despite anti- acne treatment, immunocompromised status, history
of skin cancer, recurrent herpes viral infection, oral intake of vi-
tamin A derivatives in the past 3 months, photosensitizing drug
use, history of chemical peeling 1 month prior to the study, facial
laser treatment in the past 3 months, history of keloids, photosen-
sitivit y, pregnancy or breastfeeding status. Written consent was
received from the participants or their surrogates before undergo-
ing treatment. The study was conducted according to the Helsinki
2.2 | Treatment protocol
Patients received anti- viral prophylaxis (Acylovir 800 mg PO twice
daily) for 3 days starting on the day of the treatment in order to
prevent possible herpetic outburst. No other pre- treatment was
used. The treatment was delivered with the nanosecond 1064-
nm Nd:YAG laser (StarWalker MaQX, Fotona) with a fractional
1,064- nm handpiece (FS20A) at an energy level of 30– 75 mJ/
pixel and MaQX- 10 mode. Multiple passes (2– 6) over the treated
area have been performed according to the severity of scarring
and the patient's immediate response. Protective eyewear was
used by all personnel and the patient during all treatments. Use
of topical PRP application over the treated area immediately after
the procedure to speed up and improve the healing process was
encouraged. Patients were recommended to use topical antibiotic
(Clindamycin) for 5 days and continue with Acyclovir. They were
also instructed not to undergo any other anti- scarring procedure
until the final follow- up visit, as well as to avoid sun exposure and
apply sunscreen. Patients received multiple treatments until sat-
isfactory results were achieved. The interval between the treat-
ments was not predetermined and was chosen according to the
patient's availability and wishes, but it was not shor ter than re-
quired for complete healing of the treated area (approximately
All patients were encouraged to give consent for standardized
photographs to be obtained before the initial treatment and after
satisfactory results were achieved. Lighting conditions and patient
positioning were identical every time. Three non- involved asses-
sors who were unaware of the treatment methods were first asked
to determine the correct sequence of before/after photographs.
If they failed to determine the right sequence, a score of 5 (wors-
ened patient) was applied. Secondly, the pre- treatment and post-
treatment(s) photographs were compared for the improvement of
scarring. A global assessment improvement scale (GAIS) was used,
where 1= exceptional improvement, 2= very good improvement,
3= improvement, 4= no change, and 5 = worsening. The patients
were also asked to rate their satisfaction on a 0– 3 scale, where 0=
not at all satisfied, 1= somewhat satisfied, 2= satisfied, and 3=
very satisfied. Student's t- test was used to compare length of re-
covery (erythema and re- epithelization) between the group where
PRP was used and the group without the use of topical PRP after
the treatment. A chi- square test of independence was performed
to examine the relation between PRP use and self- reported pa-
3 | RESULTS
Overall, a total of 46 patients were included in our final analysis
(37 females and 9 males). The patients’ ages ranged from 16 to
69 years (mean 35 ± 12 years). Most of the patients were Hispanic
or Asian and would fit into Fitzpatrick type II to IV classifications.
Twenty- one patients out for 46 decided for the application of
The mean number of sessions was 1.7 ± 0.9 (range 1– 4); see
Table 1. The treatment interval was not predetermined and there-
fore ranged from 22 days to a year with an average 92 ± 89 days. All
patients recovered very quickly, re- epithelization took 2.3 ± 0.8 for
those patients were PRP was used and 2.4 ± 0.9 days when no PRP
TABLE 1 Number of treatments needed
# of treatments 1 2 3 4
# of patient s 23 14 7 2
MANI ANd ZOR MAN
was used. The redness faded on the 9th day on average (9.2 ± 2.5
with PRP and 9.3 ± 2.8 without PRP). No hypo/hyperpigmenta-
tion, scarring, or any other side effects were reported by any of the
Twelve pairs of high quality before/after photos were available
in our database (Figures 1, 2, and 3). The photographs were t aken
1– 6 months after the final procedure (average: 3.2 months). A cor-
rect blinded before/after recognition was achieved by all 3 blinded
assessors in 75% of cases; in the remaining 25% of cases, 2 out of the
3 assessors recognized the correct sequence. Most patients (75%)
were improved or very improved according to blinded evaluation
(see Table 2). Only 20 patients were available for the satisfaction
survey. Self- rated satisfaction ranged from 0 to 3 with a mean
2.1 ± 0.64 (see Table 3). A chi- square test of independence showed
that there was no significant association between PRP use and self-
reported patient satisfaction, X2 (1, N = 20) = 0.09, p = 0.96.
4 | DISCUSSION
This is the first study, to our knowledge, to report on the efficacy
of the high- fluence 1064 nm- nanosecond laser and diffractive lens
FIGURE 1 Patient #1: before and
2 weeks after the second procedure
FIGURE 2 Patient #2: before and
4 months after a single procedure
M ANI ANd ZORMAN
array technology in the management of facial acne scarring. The
high energies per pixel used in this method enable ablation of the
treated skin islets using a nanosecond Q- switched Nd:YAG laser,
representing a novel approach to acne scar treatment that combines
the benefits of surface ablation and deep tissue penetration, both
contributing a role in the scar revision process. We have shown that
this method produces significant clinical improvement of acne scars
and results in high patient satisfaction.
Akerman et al.18 have reported an overall moderate improve-
ment in scar appearance and a statistically significant decrease
in scar severity in post- surgical scars using a similar approach
with the nanosecond 1064 nm wavelength in a fractional deliv-
ery mode, but with lower energies per pixel. Histological changes
(multicellular and wavy epidermis, dense collagen fibers, and col-
lagen regeneration in the dermis) were also observed in a study
by Urdiales- Galvez et al.21 where a fractional approach for the
improvement of acne scars was used also with picosecond lasers
(around 10 times shorter pulses) of the same wavelength, show-
ing good results. Manuskiatti et al.22 treated 26 patients with
atrophic acne scars and showed improvement in scar volume and
smoothing of the skin. Koren et al.23 repor ted an average 50%–
75% improvement in 16 patients with hyperpigmented scars,
whereas Choi achieved 25%– 49% improvement in 24 patients
with hypertrophic scars.24 Similar improvement (25%– 50%) was
also reported by Brauer who included 17 patients in the study.20
A small study with 4 patients reported ECCA score improvement
of 57.9% in using fractional picosecond 1064 nm with atrophic
Our study on acne scars included a relatively high number of
patients (n = 46) in comparison with all others using a similar ap-
proach in treating acne scarring. Clinical efficacy was evaluated
by three blinded assessors that were able to determine the cor-
rect before/after sequence in almost all of the cases showing that
improvement was substantial and obvious. Even though we ap-
plied a score of 5 (worsened patient) in the cases of an incorrect
evaluation of before/after sequence, 75% of patient fell into the
improved or very improved category. Photographs for blinded as-
sessment were taken at the last follow- up, which was 1– 6 months
(average 3.2 months) after the final treatment. Downtime was
minimal; patients experienced transient erythema, mild edema
and some crusting over the next couple of days post- treatment.
Re- epithelization on average happened on the second/third day
and erythema resolved by day 9 in comparison with standard
ablative treatments, where erythema can last a few weeks with
Er:YAG and even up to half a year with CO2 resurfacing.13,25,26
Our previous personal experience when ablative laser treat-
ments are performed was that the use of PRP after the treat-
ment will shorten the recovery time and improve the outcome.
This has also been confirmed by different studies. 27– 29 However,
we have not been able to show statistically significant difference
with the use of PRP in this study since redness disappeared and
re- epithelization occurred in the same amount of time in both
groups. The procedure proved to be patient friendly since 85%
of the patients were satisfied or very satisfied with the treat-
ment and treatment outcome. Minimal preparation was required,
with the face cleansed to remove any makeup or excess sebum
before initiating treatment. Patients were not asked about a pain
score specifically, but we can assume it was minimal since none
of the patients required any pre- treatment anesthesia or cool-
ing for analgesia during the treatment sessions, which are usually
needed for standard ablative fractional treatments. The majority
of our patients were of a darker skin type (namely Hispanic or
Asian) who are more likely to develop adverse side effects (e.g.,
FIGURE 3 Ablation holes over a tattooed area as seen through
dermatoscopy (dermatoscopic photograph from a patient not
related to this study, Courtesy of Fotona)
TABLE 2 Scar improvement graded by 3 blinded assessors
Blinded evaluation N = 12
1- Exceptional improvement 00%
2- Very good improvement 325%
3- Improvement 650%
4- No change 325%
5- Worsening 00%
TABLE 3 Patient satisfaction
Patient satisfaction N = 20
3- Very satisfied 525%
2- Satisf ied 12 60%
1- Somewhat satisfied 315%
0- Not satisfied 00%
MANI ANd ZOR MAN
hyperpigmentation).26,30 However, no adverse side effects were
reported, so we can conclude that fractional Q- switched 106 4 nm
treatment as proposed in this study is safe for all skin types. This
improvement in the safety profile and reduction in downtime is
achieved by the use of fractionalization of the laser beam. A spe-
cialized dif fractive lens array was used to alter the distribution
of energy delivered to the skin. Standard, that is full- beam hand-
pieces deliver the energy in a uniform fashion. In contrast, the
handpiece and laser used in our study deliver high energy to 81
(9 × 9) pixels in a 9 × 9 mm matrix. Practically, all of the energy
is delivered directly to the 81 pixels (each around 100 um in di-
ameter). This produces discrete areas of damage (microthermal
treatment zones) and spares the surrounding tissue.31,32 When
a high energy per pixel is used, these microthermal treatment
zones actually become points of ablation (see Figures 4 and 5).
By using the FS20A handpiece, approximately 3% of the cuta-
neous sur face area per laser shot is ablated, therefore multiple
passes were performed to achieve around 15%– 20% coverage,
a density considered optimal for ablative fractional treatments.
The strengths of this study are a high number of patient s, and the
use of subjective and objective for evaluation of the results. The
limitations are that only not all participants gave consent for pho-
tography and only a part of them answered the post- treatment
5 | CONCLUSION
It is impor tant to find new and better, more tolerable ways with
shorter downtime to treat acne scars because of the high prevalence
of this problem in the general population. To our knowledge, this is
the first reported study that demonstrates good clinical outcomes
in facial acne scar management with the fractional nanosecond
1064 nm laser. Additional studies with even larger sample sizes, ad-
ditional methods for objective outcome evaluation, histologic anal-
yses, or split case studies are needed to confirm our findings and
potentially improve the technique itself.
FIGURE 4 Cross section of an ablation hole in a tattooed area
(histology slide from a patient not related to this study, Courtesy of
FIGURE 5 Patient #3: before and
1 months after a single procedure
M ANI ANd ZORMAN
CONFLICTS OF INTEREST
N. Mani and A. Zorman have no conflict of interest.
N.M. carried out the laser treatments. A.Z. wrote the manuscript
with support from N.M. Both authors conceived the original idea.
It is a retrospective study, Ethics Review Board approval was not
CONSENT TO PARTICIPATE
Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants in-
cluded in the study.
DATA AVAIL ABILI TY STATEMENT
Data sharing is not applicable to this ar ticle as no new data were cre-
ated or analyzed in this study
Anže Zorman https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3777-6497
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How to cite this article: Mani N, Zorman A. Acne scar
treatment using high- energy fractional nanosecond
Q- switched 1064 nm laser. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2021;00:1– 6.
https: //doi .or g/10.1111/jo cd.14534