Laser surgery for warts

Surgery Overview

Laser surgery uses an intense beam of light, or laser, to burn and destroy the wart tissue. It is usually done in a doctor's office or clinic. Local or general anesthetic may be used, depending on the number of warts to be removed or the size of the area to be treated.

What To Expect After Surgery

The wound will be painful for a few days after laser surgery. Recovery time depends on the location and number of warts removed.

After laser surgery, call your doctor if you have:

  • Bleeding that lasts longer than 1 week.
  • A fever.
  • Severe pain.
  • Bad-smelling or yellowish discharge, which may indicate an infection. Cleaning the wound area helps prevent infection.

Why It Is Done

Laser surgery may be considered when:

  • Medicine has failed, and it is necessary to remove the warts.
  • Warts are large or widespread.
  • Warts need to be treated during pregnancy. Your doctor will recommend when treatment should be done during pregnancy.

How Well It Works

Pulsed dye laser works about the same for wart removal as cryotherapy and cantharidin.1

Risks

There is a slight risk of infection associated with laser surgery. Signs of infection include:

  • Increased pain, swelling, redness, tenderness, or heat.
  • Red streaks extending from the area.
  • Discharge of pus.
  • Fever of 100°F (37.78°C) or higher with no other cause.

What To Think About

Laser surgery:

  • Normally causes no scarring.
  • Requires local anesthetic.
  • Is more expensive than most other methods of wart removal.
  • Is not recommended as an initial treatment.
  • Is usually used for large, hard-to-cure warts.

There are concerns that laser treatment may increase the risk of having warts return by destroying the local immune system, allowing inactive viruses to become active.

Complete the surgery information form (PDF)(What is a PDF document?) to help you prepare for this surgery.

References

Citations

  1. Luk NM, Tan YM (2007). Warts (non-genital), search date November 2006. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence. Also available online: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.

Last Updated: September 11, 2008

Author: Caroline Rea, RN, BS, MS

Medical Review: Kathleen Romito, MD - Family Medicine & Alexander H. Murray, MD, FRCPC - Dermatology

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