Q-Switched Ruby Laser Irradiation of Normal Human Skin: Histologic and Ultrastructural Findings

George J. Hruza, Jeffrey S. Dover, Thomas J. Flotte, Margaret Goetschkes, Shinichi Watanabe, R. Rox Anderson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

105 Scopus citations


The Q-switched ruby laser is used for treatment of tattoos. The effects of Q-switched ruby laser pulses on sunexposed and sun-protected human skin, as well as senile entigines, were investigated with clinical observation, light microscopy, and transmission electron microscopy. A pinpricklike sensation occurred at radiant exposures as low as 0.2 J/cm2. Immediate erythema, delayed edema, and immediate whitening occurred with increasing radiant exposure. The threshold for immediate whitening varied inversely with skin pigmentation, ranging from a mean of 1.4 J/cm2 in lentigines to 3.1 J/cm2 in sun-protected skin. Transmission electron microscopy showed immediate alteration of mature melanosomes and nuclei within keratinocytes and melanocytes, but stage I and II melanosomes were unaffected. Histologically, immediate injury was confined to the epidermis. There was minimal inflammatory response 1 day after exposure. After 1 week, subthreshold exposures induced hyperpigmentation, with epidermal hyperplasia and increased melanin staining noted histologically. At higher radiant exposures, hypopigmentation occurred with desquamation of a pigmented scale/crust. All sites returned to normal skin color and texture without scarring within 3 to 6 months. These observations suggest that the human skin response to selective photothermolysis of pigmented cells is similar to that reported in animal models, including low radiant exposure stimulation of melanogenesis and high radiant exposure lethal injury to pigmented epidermal cells.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1799-1805
Number of pages7
JournalArchives of Dermatology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1991

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Dermatology


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