Ablative fractional lasers (CO2 and Er:YAG): A randomized controlled double-blind split-face trial of the treatment of peri-orbital rhytides


  • Conflict of interest: None of the authors of the study has financial interests of any kind or is in any way related to the manufacturers, wholesalers or retailers of the devices under investigation.

  • Funding: Both devices under investigation were provided by the German distributors at no cost. No funding has been received in relation to the trial.


Background and Objective

Ablative fractional lasers were introduced for treating facial rhytides in an attempt to achieve results comparable to traditional ablative resurfacing but with fewer side effects. However, there is conflicting evidence on how well this goal has generally been achieved as well as on the comparative value of fractional CO2 and Er:YAG lasers. The present study compares these modalities in a randomized controlled double-blind split-face study design.

Study Design/Materials and Methods

Twenty-eight patients were enrolled and completed the entire study. Patients were randomly assigned to receive a single treatment on each side of the peri-orbital region, one with a fractional CO2 and one with a fractional Er:YAG laser. The evaluation included the profilometric measurement of wrinkle depth, the Fitzpatrick wrinkle score (both before and 3 months after treatment) as well as the assessment of side effects and patient satisfaction (1, 3, 6 days and 3 months after treatment).


Both modalities showed a roughly equivalent effect. Wrinkle depth and Fitzpatrick score were reduced by approximately 20% and 10%, respectively, with no appreciable difference between lasers. Side effects and discomfort were slightly more pronounced after Er:YAG treatment in the first few days, but in the later course there were more complaints following CO2 laser treatment. Patient satisfaction was fair and the majority of patients would have undergone the treatment again without a clear preference for either method.


According to the present study, a single ablative fractional treatment session has an appreciable yet limited effect on peri-orbital rhytides. When fractional CO2 and Er:YAG lasers are used in such a manner that there are comparable post-operative healing periods, comparable cosmetic improvement occurs. Multiple sessions may be required for full effect, which cancels out the proposed advantage of fractional methods, that is, fewer side effects and less down time. Lasers Surg. Med. 42:160–167, 2010. © 2009 Wiley-Liss, Inc.