The Vascular Birthmarks Foundation
Laser Therapy for Treating Port Wine Stains and Infantile Hemangiomas
March 5, 2017
Our next VBF Facebook Live sessions will focus on using lasers to treat Infantile Hemangiomas and Port Wine Stains. Two of the world's leading experts in this field, Dr. Stuart Nelson and Dr. Roy Geronemus, will be co-hosting the sessions with me to share critical information for families affected by these vascular birthmark types.
On March 5th, Dr. Nelson will explain why he prefers to treat patients early (as young as one month of age) and while under anesthesia. On March 31st, Dr. Geronemus will share his preference for early treatment (as soon as the birthmark appears on a baby, even just after birth) but explain why he prefers not to use anesthesia. As you will hear during these two sessions, there are no hard and fast rules in the diagnosis and treatment of vascular anomalies. Settings, wavelengths, and pulse durations are all variables considered in the approaches to laser treatment.
Patients treated under anesthesia have to be admitted to a center with an anesthesiologist. They are prepped before the treatment and then have to wait to recover. For many this can be a relatively quick turnaround of time, but not as quick as without anesthesia. Outcomes vary - some parents say their babies are groggy for days, others say their babies do fine and are playing within hours of treatment. The latest published journals indicate no long term side effects from repeated anesthesia treatments.
Treatments without anesthesia are typically over within minutes. Patients are lathered with a topical numbing agent and lasered for a short time later; they return home immediately. Many parents worry that treatment without anesthesia is painful and traumatic. Both sides of the coin have been reported to VBF - some patients have no issues while others appear traumatized.
As VBF expert Dr. Milton Waner always says, "the bottom line is the end point." So, regardless of whether a treatment includes anesthesia, the end point must always be a lighter, less prominent vascular birthmark.
If you or your loved one has a vascular birthmarks that is being treated with a laser, make sure you ask lots of questions, mainly, what will be the end result? Some port wine stains lighten but never go away. Hemangiomas can lighten but not flatten and they do eventually go away. Vascular birthmarks are like snowflakes. No two are alike and no two respond to treatment the same.
For more information about the laser treatment of an infantile hemangioma or port wine stain, please make sure you watch these important VBF Facebook Live sessions with Dr. Nelson on March 5th and with Dr. Geronemus on March 31st. If you miss them live you can watch recordings of the sessions at any time from this link. You can also find many articles regarding the debate whether to use anesthesia in treating a vascular birthmark on the VBF website.