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Craig Vander Kolk
Craig Vander Kolk uses the laser to smootht he face of a patient with deep acne scars.


Face-lift Alternative

lastic surgeon Craig Vander Kolk, M.D., says Hopkins’ recent acquisition of a $150,000 coherent ultrapulse carbon dioxide laser will change cosmetic surgery here. The device, dedicated to the cosmetic surgery needs of four major departments—Plastic Surgery, Ophthalmology, Otolaryngology and Dermatology, offers a remarkably safe and accurate way to lessen wrinkles and remove skin abnormalities. “Our studies here show it’s a vast improvement over a chemical peel or dermabrasion for wrinkles,” he says. It is also a great addition to traditional face-lifts and blepharoplasty and forehead lifts. And other research he’s done finds the laser can hold its own against the standard face-lift for wrinkles.

“With the chemical peel,” says Vander Kolk, “accuracy was a problem. It was difficult to limit the depth of skin removed with great precision. But with the laser, eliminating surface layers is far safer. You can, for example, adjust the level for forehead and cheeks, where skin is thicker, as opposed to the thinner eyelids.” In addition, the laser tightens collagen in the dermis, smoothing wrinkles.

Vander Kolk offers the laser treatment on an outpatient basis in the Plastic Surgery Cosmetics operating room. Patients receive light sedation and a local anesthetic before the laser is positioned; then, two hours later, they’re ready to go home. In addition to smoothing wrinkled skin, clinicians use the laser cosmetically for scars from acne or from trauma, for finer flaws in aging, sun-damaged skin, for blotchiness or increasing pigmentation with age. Vander Kolk has even lessened skin marked by smallpox. “Soon, we’ll extend our use to include removal of unwanted hair, and because the laser can also cut tissue, we can use it for forehead lifts, face-lifts and blepharoplasty. “People know that research results in excellent treatment here for life-threatening illness,” he says, “but they should know they get those same benefits when they come for advances in aesthetic rehabilitation as well.”

—Kate Ledger