Laser vaginal rejuvenation, which may also be known as “laser gynaecology,” has been the centre of both hype and controversy over the last year. Celebrities have publicly praised their procedures but, in America, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued warnings to producers about how they market their equipment. In Australia, a few media outlets have reported on doctors’ concerns about using Carbon Dioxide Lasers to treat menopausal concerns.
For women who experience urinary incontinence, treatment options often begin with pelvic floor exercises, but the other option is surgery. For women who experience dyspareunia, vaginal dryness or post-menopausal vaginal atrophy, there are topical creams and hormonal replacement therapies, but not many other options. Laser treatments have been shown to offer some relief, but the reports about burns and inefficacy have women asking the question; are laser vaginal treatments safe? If so, are they effective?
What is vaginal laser rejuvenation?
CO2 lasers and radio frequency technology have been used by dermatologists and cosmetic doctors for a long time. These treatments use laser, ultrasound or radiofrequency energies to stimulate blood circulation and collagen regeneration in the skin on the face, neck and other areas of the body. The result is lifted, strengthened and more youthful-looking skin. When applied to the vaginal walls, similar technology can be used to stimulate collagen and blood flow to strengthen the vaginal lining. They’ve been used to treat post-menopausal dryness and atrophy, laxity and incontinence.
How effective are vaginal laser treatments?
Obstetrician and Gynaecologist Dr Sean Burnett says that while there is always some scepticism around new medical treatments, there is an increasing number of women who have had the procedure with good results. There is also growing evidence about the efficacy of these treatments, but medical evidence takes time to develop.
According to Gynaecologist and Web Md writer, Dr Heather Rupe1, studies have shown that laser therapy can improve post-menopausal symptoms, such as vaginal dryness and pain. There is, however, very little research on other symptoms such as laxity and incontinence.
For this reason, the research and development team at Specialist Clinics of Australia have been collecting data on the number of treatments delivered and their results. We hope we can contribute to the growing body of knowledge around laser therapy.
Is laser vaginal rejuvenation safe?
In Australia, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has cleared the use of laser therapy for soft tissues, but there is very little regulation on the use and application of laser therapy. At Specialist Clinics of Australia we fully support further investigation and the implementation of regulation by the TGA as it would help to keep patients safer and better informed.
In practice, laser and radiofrequency technologies stimulate collagen and blood flow by inducing controlled heat in the deeper tissues. If these treatments are not delivered carefully, there can be risks of scar tissue and burns.
According to our Clinical Director, Dr Garry Cussell, “laser treatments are safe so long as they are performed by highly trained, experienced professionals.” Dr Cussell has more than 20 years’ experience with laser therapy. At Specialist Clinics of Australia, vaginal laser treatments are delivered by Gynaecologists who undergo extensive training and gain experience through shadowing with Dr Cussell before they can treat patients themselves. This helps to ensure our doctors understand the equipment, the procedure and how to mitigate risks.
Keeping Yourself Safe
If you are considering a vaginal laser treatment for any of symptoms discussed above, be sure to have a thorough consultation. You need to discuss your symptoms and enquire about all of the potential benefits and risks involved. This helps the doctor determine whether you would be a good candidate for the procedure, and helps you gather all of the relevant information.
In consultation, you can always ask your doctors about their training and experience with this technology. Producers of laser technologies offer training sessions to teach doctors about safety protocols, but a good clinic will offer ongoing training opportunities, as well as opportunities to practice under supervision before delivering these treatments to patients on their own.
You should never feel as though you have to make a decision on the spot. After the consultation, take some time to consider everything discussed before deciding whether you would feel comfortable about going ahead. This is a medical procedure, so regardless of media hype or the level of regulation, it’s important to treat it as such.