CO2 laser Vermillionectomy

What is CO2 laser vermilionectomy  used for?

It is used to treat a condition called actinic cheilitis, which is severely sun-damaged skin, usually affecting the lower lip.  This often manifests as dry, scaly and sometimes discoloured/mottled skin on the lower lip and can lead to repeated cracks and scabs.  This is considered a pre-malignant condition, as it can lead to the development of skin cancer.   It can also be useful for areas of Bowen’s disease (Squamous cell carcinoma in-situ) which are often found within severely sun-damaged lips.

What does the procedure involve?

Anaesthetic is used inside the mouth to provide a relatively painless nerve block for the lower lip.  Your eyes will be covered for protection during the procedure but this can be with clear protective glasses if you prefer.  Once your lip is completely numb, a CO2 laser is used to painlessly remove the top layers of skin on the affected lip.  This destroys the sun damaged and pre-cancerous cells, and allows new fresh cells to grow through to replace them.  The procedure usually takes 15-30 minutes.

How will I know if it is best for me?

Your doctor will recommend the treatment if it is suitable for the condition of your lip.  Sometimes a biopsy will also be recommended prior to treatment.

What is the aim of the procedure?

To remove the pre-malignant cells, reducing the chance of skin cancer developing, and also improving the look and feel of the lower lip.

Are there any potential complications?

The vast majority of patients tolerate the procedure and after-care very well without complications.  However, every procedure has possible complications and although rare; post-operative pain, bleeding, delayed healing, ‘over-healing’, and scarring are possible.  Although uncommon, a repeat treatment may be required at a later date in some severe cases.

What will happen after the treatment?

The care of your lip after the procedure is crucial for the best results and rapid healing.  Please take the time to read the guidelines for after-care available on our website: Woundcare

Your nurse will also explain this and provide a written copy on the day of your procedure.

You will return for nursing review weekly until healing is complete (usually 2-3 weeks).