Resources & Information

Position Statements

Laser surgery

 Categories:  Clinical Practice   Adopted: Jul 1999  | Amended: Feb 2012  Print Friendly Version  |   Share this item

It is the position of the North Carolina Medical Board that the revision, destruction, incision, or other structural alteration of human tissue using laser technology is surgery.* Laser surgery should be performed only by a physician or by a licensed health care practitioner working within his or her professional scope of practice and with appropriate medical training functioning under the supervision, preferably on-site, of a physician or by those categories of practitioners currently licensed by this state to perform surgical services. **

Licensees should use only devices approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration unless functioning under protocols approved by institutional review boards. As with all new procedures, it is the licensee’s responsibility to obtain adequate training and to make documentation of this training available to the North Carolina Medical Board on request.

Laser Hair and Tattoo Removal **
Lasers are employed in certain hair and tattoo-removal procedures, as are various devices that (1) manipulate and/or pulse light causing it to penetrate human tissue and (2) are classified as “prescription” by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Hair and tattoo-removal procedures using such technologies should be performed only by a physician or by an individual designated as having adequate training and experience by a physician who bears full responsibility for the procedure. Additionally, electrologists who are licensed as laser hair practitioners may perform laser hair removal (but not tattoo removal) under the supervision of a physician.

The physician who provides medical supervision is expected to provide adequate oversight of licensed and non-licensed personnel both before and after the procedure is performed. The Board believes that the guidelines set forth in this Position Statement are applicable to every licensee of the Board involved in laser hair and tattoo removal.

It is the position of the Board that good medical practice requires that each patient be examined by a physician, physician assistant or nurse practitioner licensed or approved by this Board prior to receiving the first laser hair and tattoo removal treatment and at other times as medically indicated. The examination should include a history and a focused physical examination. Where prescription medication such as topical anesthetics are used, the Board expects physicians to follow the guidelines set forth in the Board’s Position Statement titled “Contact with Patients Before Prescribing.” When medication is prescribed or dispensed in connection with laser hair or tattoo removal, the supervising physician shall assure the patient receives thorough instructions on the safe use or application of said medication.

The responsible supervising physician should be on site or readily available to the person actually performing the procedure. What constitutes “readily available” will depend on a variety of factors. Those factors include the specific types of procedures and equipment used; the level of training of the persons performing the procedure; the level and type of licensure, if any, of the persons performing the procedure; the use of topical anesthetics; the quality of written protocols for the performance of the procedure; the frequency, quality and type of ongoing education of those performing the procedures; and any other quality assurance measures in place. In all cases, the Board expects the physician to be able to respond quickly to patient emergencies and questions by those performing the procedures.

*Definition of surgery as adopted by the NCMB, November 1998: Surgery, which involves the revision, destruction, incision, or structural alteration of human tissue performed using a variety of methods and instruments, is a discipline that includes the operative and non-operative care of individuals in need of such intervention, and demands pre-operative assessment, judgment, technical skills, post-operative management, and follow up.

** For more information regarding the involvement of unlicensed persons in laser hair and tattoo removal, see the Board’s Guidance Document with FAQs