Laser hair removal is a non-invasive procedure performed by an individual who uses a laser device to remove unwanted body hair from a patient. This may or may not take place in a medical setting; in fact, many spas and salons are now offering this type of service. Advertisements and commercials make it seem very easy and uncomplicated. Precautions, however, should be taken when undergoing laser hair removal, because it is very easy for a patient to be injured.
The most typical injury sustained by a patient who chooses to undergo laser hair removal is burning. Burns can range from first degree to a severe third degree burn. If the establishment the patient chooses to have the procedure performed at has relaxed standards, or has insufficiently trained personnel who will be performing the procedure, it makes it that much easier for the patient to be injured in the course of the laser hair removal treatment. There have been so many injuries correlated with use by non-medical professionals that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is trying to determine whether these same non-medical professionals should be allowed to continue performing such a procedure on patients.
Another way patients may be injured is by developing unusual pigmentation after the procedure is performed. It is not uncommon for patients with darker skin tones to experience a noticeable pigmentation in the treated area after such a procedure is performed. It is recommended that patients with darker skin tones seek out either a dermatologist or plastic surgeon if they want this type of laser hair removal treatment in order to better ensure less or even prevent pigmentation.
Currently, there are no federal requirements in place pertaining to who may and may not perform laser hair removal because such regulations are left up to each individual state. A study reported in JAMA Dermatology researched malpractice cases on this issue from 1985 to 2012. The researchers found a gradual increase of malpractice cases over that period of time with a noticeable peak in 2010. California, New York and Texas were states found to have the highest number of malpractice cases. Hair removal was found to be a procedure that most commonly led to injury, as well as ensuing legal action.
Those same researchers found that in 2011, a total of 900,000 laser hair removal procedures were performed. What is startling is that some states, among them New York and Texas, have no requirements in place for the person performing the laser hair removal treatment to have any kind of operator license. The most common type of injury was the patient suffering some degree of burning, which occurred 47%, followed by scarring, 39%, and finally issues with pigmentation, 24%. Out of 120 cases brought, 32 of the cases were held in favor of the plaintiff patient, while 29 were settled, and 59 were held in favor of defendant. Monetary compensation for injured plaintiff patients ranged from $5,000 to over $2 million, with an average of $380,700.
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