How Effective Is Pilonidal Laser Treatment?

Medically reviewed by: Gary H. Hoffman, MD

Lasers are changing the way colo-rectal surgeons handle many of the procedures they used to handle with only a scalpel and cauterizing tool. Today, lasers are used to treat hemorrhoids, pilonidal cysts, and a number of other conditions. Pilonidal laser treatment, like many other types of laser surgery, is an effective alternative to traditional surgery, and even has some advantages over using a scalpel.

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What Is The Recurrence Rate After Pilonidal Treatment?

When someone develops a pilonidal cyst and undergoes surgery to treat the painful condition, they assume the procedure will fix the problem and they will not have to worry about it anymore. However, those who are at-risk for these abscesses are still at an increased risk even after undergoing treatment. One study, in fact, showed that almost one out of every four people had a recurrence after surgical removal of a cyst.

Traditionally, there are two ways surgeons handle pilonidal surgery: primary closure and open wound. Primary closure calls for stitching up the wound after removing the offending tissue. This allows it to heal faster, but increases the chances of complications and recurrence. When doctors perform open wound procedures, they pack the wound and allow it to heal on its own. The risk of recurrence is significantly lower with this type of procedure, but the healing time is also longer. The patient must endure regular dressing changes that can be painful. Many use painkillers for the first week to two weeks, and some people need them longer.

Pilonidal laser treatment is still a fairly new procedure, and no major long-term studies are available at this time. However, in our experience, it appears laser surgery is more effective than traditional methods including open wound methods.

What Are The Other Advantages of Pilonidal Laser Treatment?

Pilonidal laser treatment may reduce the risk of recurrence, but there are also other advantages that make it a better option for many patients than traditional surgery. Both traditional surgery and laser treatment is considered an outpatient procedure, and most patients go home the same day. However, those who undergo laser treatment often return to work and their other regular activities several days earlier.

The reason people can often return to work earlier with laser treatment for pilonidal cyst is because they report considerably less pain than those who undergo surgery with traditional methods. This is true for both the first few hours following the surgery as well as several days after the procedure. Most people who undergo laser treatment need over-the-counter painkillers for less than a week.

Are There Other Things I Can Do To Prevent Pilonidal Cyst Development?

Just as it is almost impossible to prevent a pilonidal cyst from developing and becoming abscessed in the first place, it is difficult to predict or prevent a recurrence. If you are a good candidate, one of the best things we can do to prevent you from having to return for treatment is to perform pilonidal laser surgery to treat your cyst.

In addition, there are a few other things you should do to help your body heal and prevent another infection. After surgery, following your doctor’s post-operative instructions is key. If we perform your laser surgery, we may make recommendations based on your specific needs that will help you heal faster and prevent recurrence. This could include keeping the area clean with frequent showers, applying a medicated compress, cleaning the wound, or even removing hair around the site. In some cases, we may also recommend shaving, laser epilation, or other hair removal methods to prevent issues with ingrown hairs near the tailbone. Depending on the texture and thickness of your hair, this may contribute to the development of these cysts.

If you need pilonidal cyst treatment, consider talking with one of our doctors about laser surgery. Not all doctors offer this type of procedure, but our experience shows us that this type of treatment is very effective for many of our patients.

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