RF therapy ‘safe and effective’ for atrophic acne scars


By Geir O'Rourke

19 Jun 2024

Fractional microplasma radiofrequency therapy is an effective and safe option for treating atrophic acne scars, offering significant aesthetic improvement with manageable discomfort, new data suggest.

The modality, which leverages dermal fibroblast remodelling to enhance aesthetic results, may be especially useful for patients with darker skin tones seeking minimal downtime and reduce risk of hyperpigmentation, Australian and Chinese researchers say.

Professor Warren Rozen, head of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery research at Peninsula and Eastern Health, Victoria, was co-investigator in a prospective study that including 95 Chinese patients with atrophic facial acne scars, who each underwent three sessions of fraction microplasma RF treatment.

Each session involved patients receiving topical local anaesthetic before treatment with a roller tip for either four-to-five passes at an energy setting of 50-70W, or up to eight passes at an energy range of 70-85W. Post-treatment care involved the daily application of recombinant bovine basic fibroblast growth factor gel until resolution of erythema or detachment of eschars.

Results were that 25% of patients receiving the lower-intensity therapy observed a noticeable effect over six-month follow-up, as did 60% of those in the latter group.

All patients experienced transient side effects such as pain, erythema, and oedema, with those who had undergone the more intensive treatment reporting significantly increased side effects than the others.

Nevertheless, these were deemed tolerable with no long-term adverse effects reported, the researchers said.

Moreover, despite the increased side effects associated with the intensive regimen, these patients had significantly higher satisfaction levels, they wrote in JRAS Open (link here).

“This enhanced satisfaction may stem from the visibly superior therapeutic outcomes achieved with the intensive regimen, suggesting that patients are willing to tolerate greater discomfort and temporary side effects for more significant improvements in scar appearance,” they wrote.

“The findings highlight the critical need for a tailored approach in FMRT application, balancing the intensity of treatment against patient comfort and potential for side effects.”

Beyond that, three of the patients undergoing more intensive therapy experienced temporary hyperpigmentation, underscoring the importance of post-treatment care and monitoring, the researchers said.

“Ultimately, this study affirms the potential of FMRT as a versatile and effective modality for atrophic acne scar treatment, advocating for strategies that optimize efficacy while minimising patient distress and maximising satisfaction,” they added.

“Future research should aim to optimise treatment protocols and explore combination therapies to enhance patient outcomes and satisfaction further.”

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