Treating Pilonidal Disease with Laser Hair Depilation

October 22, 2018
Written by

In a pilot study, laser hair depilation was shown to prevent recurrence of pilonidal disease in adolescents and young adults.

Pilonidal disease poses a challenge for patients and clinicians. The painful disorder, characterized by skin infections in the gluteal cleft near the tailbone, has a recurrence rate of as high as 30 to 40 percent. Recurrent disease is often treated with surgical incision and drainage or excision of the infected area. However, surgical treatment can lead to wound complications and can still have greater than 10 percent recurrence, so treatments that aim to minimize recurrence and prevent the need for surgery are needed.

Hair removal by shaving or depilatory cream is recommended as an adjunct to standard treatment, as hair is thought to play a critical role in pilonidal disease development. Recently, laser hair depilation has emerged as another option for hair removal. It is a durable and effective depilation technique and is used commonly for cosmetic purposes, but data on its tolerability and effectiveness in pilonidal disease is limited.

A new pilot study published in Surgical Infections assessed the safety, tolerability and efficacy of laser hair depilation in adolescents with pilonidal disease. Led by Katherine Deans, MD, and Peter Minneci, MD, co-directors of the Center for Surgical Outcomes Research at Nationwide Children’s Hospital, the researchers set out to see if this hair removal method could decrease recurrence rate and prevent chronic pilonidal disease in adolescents.

“The results were very encouraging,” says Dr. Minneci, who is also an associate professor of surgery and pediatrics at The Ohio State University College of Medicine. “Based on our historical data, we expected about 20 percent of the patients to have a recurrence within one year of being seen at the hospital. We found that none of the 13 patients in our study had a recurrence within a year of laser hair depilation treatments.”

In addition, treatments were well tolerated and safe, with no patients unable to complete a treatment session due to discomfort and no incidents of second-degree burns.

Although the results suggest that laser hair removal is a safe and effective way to decrease pilonidal disease recurrence in adolescents, Drs. Minneci and Deans are actively recruiting patients for a larger, prospective, randomized, controlled trial of the technique. Dr. Minneci says this type of study is necessary to compare laser hair depilation with chemical and mechanical depilation methods and to determine with more certainty if laser hair removal decreases recurrence rate.

“We do know that hair removal in the area is beneficial and laser hair removal appears to be a promising and convenient way to remove hair long-term,” says Dr. Minneci. “We are currently running a study to try to answer this question definitively.”



Lopez JJ, Cooper JN, Fischer BA, Gonzalez DO, Deans KJ, Minneci PC. Tolerability of laser hair depilation in pilonidal disease: A pilot study. Surgical Infections. 2017;18(8):890-893.

Image credit: Adobe Stock