Position Statement for IPL and Laser

WHAT CAN CONTRIBUTES TO MEDICAL MALPRACTICE? 

Laser and light-based therapies are becoming very popular for cosmetic use and for delivering changes in the skin and body.  They provide skin improvement results such as skin rejuvenation, enhancing tone and elasticity, fading of pigmentation, vascular conditions as well as acne and hair reduction. Some technologies can also provide body-shaping benefits and fat reduction.

However, these devices operate by the heat that changes the cellular structure of the skin or helps to modify the body and as a result, they carry a level of risk.

Misadventure such as burns may occur for several reasons; these include:

  1. OPERATOR ERROR: Misdiagnosis of the client’s or patient’s condition, thus leading to incorrect settings.  This could occur because the patient or client did not disclose all the information pertaining to their medical history, supplements, or medication they are taking, as well as their ethnic background, which may impact the practitioner identifying the correct settings for their treatment.
  2. PRACTITIONER OPERATING OUTSIDE THEIR SCOPE OF PRACTICE: Regardless of one’s qualifications, unless the practitioner is trained and has gained qualifications on the modality they are using, this can easily result in a misadventure. With lasers, the practitioner will need to demonstrate that they have gained sufficient education, not just on how to operate the device, but on photo-physics, skin diagnosis and disorders and sufficient training that will allow them to accurately identify skin conditions and their origin, to determine an appropriate treatment plan. If they do not, then they are operating outside of their scope of practice, regardless of their other qualifications.  
  3. EQUIPMENT FAILURE: It is not uncommon for equipment to malfunction internally without any external evidence, such as the machine’s cooling system failing, thus increasing the heat delivered to the skin and contributing to burns.

QUESTIONS TO CONSIDER WHEN CHOOSING TO PRACTITIONER FOR A PHOTO-THERAPY TREATMENT

  1. Check their qualifications, in the modality they are using.  Make sure they have independent training, not just from the equipment company.
  2. Do they have medical malpractice insurance, not just professional liability, or public liability?
  3. What experience does the practitioner have?  How many treatments have they performed?
  4. Do they possess the appropriate licenses as set out by their state regulations?
  5. Ask to speak to three clients/patients who have undergone that procedure?
  6. Question what results can they guarantee and what are the realistic expectations that you should anticipate with this procedure as it relates to your condition?
  7. Question the technology they are using, is it quality assured, is it TGA approved? Research the manufacturer.
  8. Is the practitioner a member of a professional body?  Check with that organization for further recommendations on the procedure, the practitioner, and any other advice they can provide you with?
  9. Prior to any treatment has the practitioner taken you through a comprehensive consultation process to determine your health history?
  10. Has an Informed Consent Form been presented and explained to you outlining the risks and expectations?  Have you been asked to sign and date this?