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  Table of Contents  
Year : 2020  |  Volume : 11  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 337-342  

Lasers use in dermatology practice in the evolving COVID-19 scenario: Recommendations by SIG lasers (IADVL academy)

1 Fortis Memorial Research Institute, Skin n Smiles Dermatology and Aesthetics, Gurugram, Haryana, India
2 Skin and Surgery International, Asia Institute of Hair Transplant, Sholapur, Maharashtra, India
3 Calcutta National Medical College, Wizderm Speciality Skin and Hair Clinic, Kolkata, West Bengal, India
4 Escallent Institute of Lasers and Aesthetic Medicine, Gurugram, Haryana, India
5 Jubilee Mission Medical College, Thissur, Kerela, India
6 Kem Hospital, Kiara Skin Clinic, Sholapur, Maharashtra, India
7 Dr Thaj Skin Hair Clinic, Coiambtore, Tamil Nadu, India
8 AKJN Skin And Laser Centre, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
9 Neelkanth Hospital, Mandi, Himachal Pradesh, India
10 Ashvini Rural Medical College, Sholapur, Maharashtra, India
11 Cutis Institute of Dermatology and Aesthetic Sciences, Calicut, Kerela, India
12 Trivedi Skin Clinic, Surat, Gujarat, India

Date of Submission13-Apr-2020
Date of Decision18-Apr-2020
Date of Acceptance19-Apr-2020
Date of Web Publication10-May-2020

Correspondence Address:
Sachin Dhawan
Coordinator, SIG Lasers, IADVL Academy, Sr. Consultant Dermatologist, Skin n Smiles and FMRI, Gurugram - 122 002, Haryana
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/idoj.IDOJ_239_20

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The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the entire world by storm. Almost all dermatology laser procedures are considered non-essential and there is a consensus that they should be deferred till the threat of the COVID-19 is well and truly over. The article presents recommendations for the use of lasers and energy based devices in a safe manner during and in the immediate aftermath of COVID-19 pandemic. Plume generating procedures need full personal protective equipment to be used. Special precautions are required for specific laser and energy based procedures. A robust disinfection strategy based on preventing fomite borne COVID-19 transmission in the laser operating room is essential.

Keywords: COVID-19, lasers, pandemic, personal protective equipment, safety

How to cite this article:
Dhawan S, Kumari P, De A, Pall A, Pudukadan D, Romi E, Jyothy K, Selvam M D, Mrigpuri S, Shah S, Thurakkal S, Trivedi S. Lasers use in dermatology practice in the evolving COVID-19 scenario: Recommendations by SIG lasers (IADVL academy). Indian Dermatol Online J 2020;11:337-42

How to cite this URL:
Dhawan S, Kumari P, De A, Pall A, Pudukadan D, Romi E, Jyothy K, Selvam M D, Mrigpuri S, Shah S, Thurakkal S, Trivedi S. Lasers use in dermatology practice in the evolving COVID-19 scenario: Recommendations by SIG lasers (IADVL academy). Indian Dermatol Online J [serial online] 2020 [cited 2022 Jan 28];11:337-42. Available from: https://www.idoj.in/text.asp?2020/11/3/337/284098

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken the entire world by storm. Most of the countries are in some form of voluntary or enforced lockdown at this point of time. Most of the non emergency dermatology consultations have been discontinued or discouraged. Almost all dermatology laser procedures fall in the category of non emergency or non essential procedures, and there is an overwhelming consensus is to strictly avoid doing them till the threat of COVID-19 community transmission is well and truly over.

These guidelines have been formulated to enlist possible actions to be taken in the immediate post lockdown scenario and weeks to months thereafter, to protect the doctors, staff and patients in dermatology laser clinics and to minimize the risk of inadvertent transmission.

   Screening of Potential Covid-19 Patients Top


Telephonic interview/web-based form is advisable to seek travel history and symptom check. There should be an explanation of the clinic's Coronavirus safety measures to check whether the patient will be able to comply with them. In case some patients give positive travel history in last 14 days and/or have risk factors and symptoms, it is preferable to defer the clinic visit and treatment for at least 2 weeks and the patient should be referred to physicians for further evaluation. Telemedicine can be offered to such patients in the interim period.


Signage outside the clinic/hospital disseminating general information about COVID-19 infection and directing patients with flu symptoms and travel history to avoid lasers and other procedures.

At the entrance

Infrared thermometer and pulse measurement with pulse oximeter screening for each patient is advisable. Hand sanitizer should be mandatory for each person who enters the clinic.

Screening room/Triage room

Screening room/triage room for filling self-declaration form by patient regarding travel history and relevant symptoms. A consent form outlining the measures being taken for hygiene and disinfection and absolving the treating doctor/clinic of any legal liability, if the patient were to contract Covid-19 while getting treatment in the clinic, should be signed by the patient. Nursing staff/ counselor with personal protective equipment (PPE) should direct the patient to a medical facility and defer treatment if found symptomatic.

If screening questions 17 are answered in the affirmative, the procedure should be deferred for at least two weeks. If question 8 and 9 are answered in the affirmative, deeper probing followed by possible deferment should be considered. Questionnaire for screening of patients is listed in [Table 1].[1]
Table 1: Questionnaire for screening patients[1]

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Waiting room

Waiting room should have at least 1meter distance between chairs. It should not have any nonessential items like newspapers/magazines. High contact items like pens, pads, table surface, chair, door handles, etc., should be sanitized after each patient visit.

Politely allow only one attendant to accompany the patient.

Consultation room

The patient should be shifted to the consultation room directly without having to wait much in the waiting room, which is possible by spacing out appointments appropriately. Social distancing should be borne in mind when consulting, wherever close examination is not essential.

   Laser Operating Room Top

Relative safety of different lasers and energy based devices in COVID-19 era

  1. Procedures like laser toning and carbon peels can be deferred or done with appropriate PPE/overalls as they can be considered nonessential. Moreover, plume generation is massive, especially with carbon peel. Carbon solution should be taken out in a separate disposable cup and applied using disposable brush or cotton buds, which should be discarded appropriately after use along with PPEs
  2. Tattoo removal with nanosecond or picosecond lasers involve significant tissue splatter and plume generation, thus it should be deferred or done with full PPE
  3. Patients undergoing an ongoing treatment of laser hair reduction can be asked to keep a longer interval between sessions. Fresh cling wrap should be used to cover the hand piece of the laser machine. Laser cooling gel should be dispensed in a disposable cup and applied using a disposable spatula, which should be discarded appropriately along with PPEs
  4. Patients undergoing treatments like fractional lasers and micro needling radio frequency (MNRF), where a break in the treatment can lead to impaired results, should be done on priority. Smoke evacuators in the operating room are a must
  5. High intensity focused ultrasound (HiFU), mono/bipolar/multipolar radio frequency (RF), microwave devices for hyperhidrosis, cryolipolysis and low level laser for hair restoration can be undertaken relatively safely with PPE, as plume generation is not significant
  6. Treatments on face, where the operator is in close proximity with the patient should be handled with greater care and appropriate PPE
  7. Procedures involving large surface area for example full body laser hair reduction, where the operator is in contact with the patient for a longer period of time, should be discouraged and if taken up, should be done using appropriate PPE. Special precautions and PPE recommendations for common lasers and energy-based procedures are listed in [Table 2].
Table 2: Special precautions for common laser and energy based procedures

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Potential fomite borne spread in the laser operating room

  1. The median half life of Covid-19 virus is 5.6 hours on stainless steel and 6.8 h on plastic.[2] It was detectable for upto 2 days on plastic and 3 days on stainless steel.[2] This makes laser machines a possible fomite for COVID 19 infection
  2. Laser plume is an aerosol comprising of charred tissue and water vapor. Viable viruses like human papilloma virus,[3],[4] human immunodeficiency virus,[4] Hepatitis B virus[4] and polio virus[4] have been reported to be found in laser plume and surgical smoke
  3. The real-life transmissibility of such viral infections remain anecdotal,[4] even though human papilloma virus has been shown to transmit in vitro[3]
  4. Studies have not been conducted on the viability of COVID 19 virus in laser plume, but virus RNA is known to be shed in aerosols[5] and by fecal route[6] Therefore, it is better to err on the careful side and wear a N95 mask while operating lasers, especially when dealing with oropharyngeal and mucosal/genital lesions
  5. Hand hygiene and frequent had wash should be encouraged inside the laser room for both the treating doctor and support staff.

Measures to reduce laser room transmission

  1. Appropriate use of PPE
  2. Mandatory smoke evacuator use. This is known to reduce aerosols by 95%[4],[7]
  3. Keep energy levels for lasers at the lowest therapeutic levels to reduce plume formation[8]
  4. Use disposable materials like cling wrap on the contact surface of lasers, wherever possible
  5. Cover machine body with disposable plastic (barring the exhaust area) to safeguard the internal panels
  6. Strict disinfection of all surfaces, equipment, table tops, door knobs, glasses, phones, etc., in the room after each treatment
  7. Deep cleaning of room at the end of the working day, by removing all machines, beds, stools, and chairs from the room and spraying of sodium hypochlorite solution on all surfaces including floor, doors, windows, curtains, and cabinets
  8. Powder free nitrile gloves should be worn by the operating doctor, support staff and patient for each procedure
  9. Patient should also be made to wear a gown/overall as his/her clothes will come in contact with multiple surfaces during the procedure
  10. To improve airflow in the operating room and to encourage 12 air changes per hour, use a strong exhaust fan and air conditioning
  11. Air conditioner should be a stand alone unit for each room and not part of a central air conditioning system
  12. Place the head end of the patient bed close to the exhaust fan, so the aerosols generated by the patient's breath are taken up by the exhaust quickly. Air conditioning vent should preferably be at the opposite end to establish an uninterrupted airflow stream.

Disinfection of laser operating room, laser equipment and other surfaces[9]

All surfaces coming in contact with the patient including beds, switches, door handles etc. should be cleaned with 1% sodium hypochlorite solution[6] or 70% ethyl alcohol based disinfectants. Damp swab all surfaces, allow contact time of 30 minutes and allow to air dry.

All laser and other machines e.g. laser hand pieces, tubing, body of the machine, should be cleaned with 1% sodium hypochlorite solution after each procedure. The optics of laser, lens, and sapphire cooling tip on the hand piece should not be cleaned with sodium hypochlorite, instead 70% ethyl alcohol should be used to clean them. In addition, laser machine surfaces that come in contact with the patient like hand pieces, tubing should be cleaned with 70% ethyl alcohol before starting the next procedure. Wait for the alcohol to evaporate visibly and then start the treatment. Guidelines for preparation of 1% sodium hypochlorite solution are given in [Table 3].[9]
Table 3: Guideline for preparation of 1% sodium hypochlorite solution[1]

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Fumigation of clinic procedure room

Clinic procedure room should ideally be fumigated at the end of each working day and sealed overnight by using formaldehyde vapor which is produced by heating of commercially available 40% formalin solution (500 ml of 40% formaldehyde mixed with 1 liter of water for 1000 cubic feet space).[10] Neutralization is done with 300 ml of ammonia for each1 liter of formaldehyde used.

Optimal use of PPE

PPEs comprise of protective gear designed to safeguard the health of workers by minimizing the exposure to a biological agent. Components of PPE are goggles, face-shield, mask, gloves, coverall/gowns (with or without aprons), head cover, and shoe cover [Table 4] and [Table 5].[1],[11]
Table 4: Rational use of PPE for different areas of the clinic[1]

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Table 5: PPE KIT[1]

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   Specifications of Ppe for Health Workers in a Laser Dermatology Clinic Top

Choosing the right PPE for the different areas/workers of a laser clinic is important to rationalize the cost and will also help preserve PPE for frontline health workers. These recommendations [Table 4][1]] from Govt. of India (Ministry of Health & Family Welfare) can act as our guide.

Recommendations for common areas are available, though there are no specific recommended guidelines for use of PPE in laser operating rooms.

  1. Still, it is wise to use full PPE in aerosol & plume producing or wound producing procedures like ablative lasers, fractional ablative lasers, vascular lasers, and ablative RF cautery[1]
  2. For non-ablative procedures like Q-switched Nd:YAG laser, RF skin firming and HiFU, N95 mask, goggles, and gloves are recommended[1]
  3. Masks for laser procedures: N95 mask filters out 95% of aerosols when exposed to 0.3 micron particles and are therefore is suitable for keeping out viruses and other fine particles in surgical smoke.[4] Ideally to be used by health care staff who are in close contact with the patient. Triple layer surgical mask can filter out only droplets larger than 5 microns and is suitable for use by patients to prevent spread of droplets.[4] N 95 mask should be covered with a triple layer mask, that needs to be changed after each procedure, to prevent contamination of the N95 mask. Facial hair affects the efficacy of the mask as they do not allow air tight sealing.

   Disposal of Ppe Top

  1. Sequential donning and doffing steps for PPEs should be followed
  2. Donning sequence: Gown→mask→goggles/face shield→gloves[12]

  3. Doffing sequence (example1): Gloves→goggles/face shield→gown→mask→hand hygiene[12]

    (Example 2): Gown and gloves→goggles/face shield→mask→hand hygiene[12]If hands touch any contaminated surface of PPE (for example front or sleeve of gown) then hand hygiene should to be practiced before moving to the next step.

  4. Disposal of biomedical waste should be done via incineration and standard guidelines
  5. Discard in bio/hazard bag. The interior of the bag should be sprayed with 1% sodium hypochlorite solution. The bag should be tied, and exterior should be decontaminated with 1% sodium hypochlorite[8]
  6. The laser operating room should have a disposal bin
  7. PPE should be disposed after each procedure or session based on the level of danger/exposure, for example, for nonablative lasers and energy based devices (nonaerosol/nonplume producing procedures) only gloves and masks need to be changed after each procedure and goggles cleaned with disinfectant, gowns, shoe covers can be changed after a session/daily once. For aerosol/plume producing procedures like ablative lasers, full PPE should be changed after each procedure.

   Extended Use of N-95 Mask Top

Ideally N-95 masks are meant for single use only.

To conserve PPEs, a set of 5 masks can be issued to each person, along with 4 breathable paper bags. After use of first mask, it should be placed in the paper bag and allowed to dry for 4 days. It should be reused on day 6. Use the 5 masks sequentially and once all masks have been used 5 times, they should be discarded.[13]

Alternatively, vaporous hydrogen peroxide and UV germicidal radiation(UVC 254nm), if available can be used for decontamination of the N-95 mask.[13]

   Screening and Training of Clinic Staff Top

Any staff member showing symptoms suggestive of COVID-19 should be put on 14-day home quarantine. If staff strength is adequate, another option is rotational shifts of staff members, for example staff can be divided into two teams that remain 7 days on duty and next seven days off duty. Staff should be screened for COVID-19 symptoms upon return for the shift.

Arrange staff training for hand hygiene, PPE and basic scientific information about Covid-19.

Support staff psychologically to keep their morale high as they may be concerned about the possible transmission to their family.

   Epilogue Top

The decision about when to start doing nonemergency laser and other energy based procedures should be taken keeping in mind the ease of availability of PPE for frontline healthcare providers dealing with COVID 19. Till the time there is inadequate availability of PPE and/or high number of reported cases in your area or if your area is a declared as a containment or buffer zone, laser procedures in dermatology practice should be deferred.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.

   References Top

Novel Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Guidelines on rational use of Personal Protective Equipment. Available from: https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/GuidelinesonrationaluseofPersonalProtectiveEquipment.pdf. [Updated on 2020 Mar 09, Cited on 2020 Apr 18].  Back to cited text no. 1
van Doremalen N, Bushmaker T, Morris DH, Holbrook MG, Gamble A, Williamson BN, et al. Aerosol and surface stability of SARS-CoV-2 as compared with SARS-CoV-1. N Engl J Med 2020;382:1564-7.[e-pub].doi: 10.1056/NEJMc2004973.  Back to cited text no. 2
Garden JM, O'Banion MK, Bakus AD, Olson C. Viral disease transmitted by laser-generated plume (aerosol). Arch Dermatol 2002;138-7. doi:10.1001/archderm.138.10.1303.  Back to cited text no. 3
Liu Y, Song Y, Hu X, Yan L, Zhu X. Awareness of surgical smoke hazards and enhancement of surgical smoke prevention among the gynecologists. J Cancer 2019;10:2788-99.  Back to cited text no. 4
Zhu N, Zhang D, Wang W, Li X, Yang B, Song J, et al. A novel coronavirus from patients with pneumonia in China, 2019. N Engl J Med 2020;382:727-33.  Back to cited text no. 5
Zhang W, Du RH, Li B, Yang XL, Hu B, Wang YY, et al. Molecular and serological investigation of 2019-nCoV infected patients: Implication of multiple shedding routes. Emerg Microbes Infect 2020;9:386-9.  Back to cited text no. 6
Guidance: COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE). Available from: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/wuhan-novel-coronavirus-infection-prevention-and-control/covid-19-personal-protective-equipment-ppe. [Updated 2020 Apr 18, Cited 2020 Apr 18].  Back to cited text no. 7
SAGES and EAES Recommendations Regarding Surgical response to covid 19. Available from: https://www.sages.org/recommendations-surgical-response-covid-19/. [Last released on 2020 Mar 30].  Back to cited text no. 8
Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19): Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for transporting a suspect/confirmed case of COVID-19. Available from: https://www.mohfw.gov.in/pdf/-StandardOperatingProcedureSOPfortransportingasuspectorconfirmedcaseofCOVID19.pdf. [Updated 2020 Mar 09, Cited 2020 Apr 18].  Back to cited text no. 9
Gupta C, Vanathi M, Tandon R. Current concepts in operative room sterilisation. DJO 2015;25:190-4.  Back to cited text no. 10
Prepare to Care for COVID-19: Get Your Practice Ready. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/healthcare-facilities/practice-prepare. [Updated 2020 Mar 31, Cited 2020 Apr 18].  Back to cited text no. 11
Donning and doffing sequence. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/hai/pdfs/ppe/ppe-sequence.pdf. [Updated 2020 Mar 16, Cited 2020 Apr 18].  Back to cited text no. 12
Decontamination and Reuse of Filtering Facepiece Respirators. Available from: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/ppe-strategy/decontamination-reuse-respirators.html. [Updated 2020 Apr 29, Cited 2020 May 06].  Back to cited text no. 13


  [Table 1], [Table 2], [Table 3], [Table 4], [Table 5]

This article has been cited by
1 A critical appraisal of IADVL SIG recommendations during COVID-19 pandemic in dermatology practice
Brahmaiah Upputuri, Rohan Bhattacharjee, Soni Rathore
Indian Dermatology Online Journal. 2020; 11(5): 859
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


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