Healing severe burns with laser treatments

An acid attack left her suffering with burns on most of her body. Now, new advances in lasers are melting away her scars.

Tanya St. Arnauld explains, "More than the pain I could remember the smell. The smell of like burning flesh."

Tanya St. Arnauld remembers vividly when her then boyfriend attacked, spraying corrosive acid in her face.

Tanya says,"I said. Oh my god he's going to kill me. I have to get out of here."

She escaped, but not before the entire bottle of acid had been dumped on her, burning 70-percent of her body.

Tanya says, "In the beginning, you see holes in your body and you see tissue and it's so gruesome."

She lost huge chunks of hair and much of her mobility, multiple skin grafts left mangled scars.

"I was thinking to myself, I'm just 29 and I'm a total handicap," she says.

However, looking at her now, you can see that hope would come when she found one of the top scar experts in the US, Doctor Jill Waibel.

Dr. Waibel, from the Miami Dermatology & Laser Institute, says, "most doctors don't even know, let alone patients that we have these great technologies."

Dr. Waibel first uses a laser that vaporizes the burns using heat more than 212 degrees Fahrenheit.

"We are basically heating up the scar so hot that you'll see when we treat the patient, we have a smoke evacuator to suck up this skin that we are vaporizing," Dr. Waibel says.

This is Tanya's fourth treatment.

Dr. Waibel says, "We are literally creating a third degree burn, very small. And then removing that damaged skin and then brand new skin grows into that."

A second laser, known as Lumenis UltraPulse/ SCAAR FX penetrates deeply into the skin, allowing steroids and other topical treatments to be delivered where it is needed most.

Dr. Waibel says, "In this case it's kenalog, which is going to help synergistically flatten the scar."

She says the trick is getting to the scars early.

"We've found that the sooner you get the lasers on the burn scars, we think we can actually prevent the scars from forming," Dr. Waibel says.

For Tanya, it is a welcome pain.

Tanya says, "I'm like anxious to come suffer for every month… It's weird to say but I love this pain now because it's so beautiful.”

Tanya wants to try to begin rebuilding her hair-styling career that was effectively put on hold because of her injuries.

She is also getting ready to face her alleged attacker in court during his trial in August.


REPORT: MB # 3774

BACKGROUND: When the skin comes in contact with something hot, cells in the skin die. The depth of the injury depends on the intensity of the heat and length of time that it is applied. If severe enough, the full thickness of the skin can be destroyed, along with tissues under it. Burns can also result from contact with certain chemicals. Burns are classified by the depth of each the injury so that the appropriate treatment is used.
* First Degree: superficial-redness of skin without blisters
* Second Degree: partial thickness skin damage-blisters
* Third Degree: full thickness skin damage-skin is white and leathery
* Fourth Degree: 3rd degree with damage to deeper structures, like tendons, joints, and bone (Source: http://www.assh.org)
TYPES: There are many different types of burns. Heat burns (thermal) are caused by fire, hot objects, heat, steam, or hot liquids. Cold temperature burns are caused by skin exposure to windy, wet, or cold conditions. Chemical burns are caused by contact with household or industrial chemicals in a liquid, solid, or gas form. Natural foods, like chili peppers, contain a substance that irritates the skin and cause a burning sensation. Electrical burns are caused by contact with electrical sources or by lightning. Radiation burns are caused by the sun, sunlamps, tanning beds, X-rays, or radiation therapy for cancer treatment. Friction burns are caused by contact with any hard surface like roads, carpets, or gym floor surfaces. Breathing in hot air or gases can injure your lungs. Breathing in toxic gases, like carbon monoxide, can cause poisoning in the lungs. (Source: www.webmd.com)
DR. WAIBEL: "The basis of scar treatments are what we call the fractional ablative lasers. And one of the ones I use the most is the Lumenis UltraPulse/ SCAAR FX. There's a group of physicians across you know really the world, but definitely here in the United States and when we got together and we said to Lumenis, you know one of the things we need is a laser that can go as deep as the scar. Because some of these scars are very thick especially on the back and burn scars. And so Lumenis created some software called scar effects and that software can go 4000 microns deep. Our current thinking and what we've seen improves scars. The Lumenis UltraPulse/ SCAAR FX coupled with that new software has really been a great tool to help with scars."

Jeff R. Jacomowitz
New York, NY

If this story or any other Ivanhoe story has impacted your life or prompted you or someone you know to seek or change treatments, please let us know by contacting Marjorie Bekaert Thomas at mthomas@ivanhoe.com
MB #3774

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