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What are port-wine stains?

Port-wine stains are birthmarks in which an increased number of blood vessels cause a reddish-purplish discoloration of the skin.

What is the best treatment for port-wine stains?

Laser therapy in conjunction with cryogen spray cooling (CSC) is considered the treatment of choice for port-wine stains. Dr. J. Stuart Nelson, medical director of the Beckman Laser Institute & Medical Clinic, invented and introduced the cooling technique into clinical practice.

For best results, patients need a series of laser treatment sessions. There are varying degrees of success depending where on the body the port-wine stain is located.

How effective is laser treatment?

Studies show an improvement in the appearance of port-wine stains ranging from 75 percent to 100 percent after a series of laser treatment sessions.

Recent advances in technology and treatment protocols allow for increased lightening and clearing of port-wine stains. One study revealed close to 90 percent clearance when treatment began in infancy.

When should treatment begin?

In our experience, early intervention can make a significant difference. We prefer to initiate treatment during early infancy—at intervals of four to six weeks (the same parameter for adults).

This window of opportunity during infancy provides a better chance in completely clearing vascular birthmarks.

What are the medical reasons for treating port-wine stains with laser technology?

Port-wine stains are progressive vascular malformations of the skin, meaning the deformity will grow larger and more noticeable over time. Treating port-wine stain birthmarks with laser technology helps prevent enlargement and deformity as the patient ages.

In children, port-wine stains are reddish discolorations of the skin. However, as the patients get older, the lesions tend to darken progressively to purple. By adulthood, they often become raised because of the development of vascular papules, or nodules, that resemble cobblestones. These changes in color and contour are caused by the progressive dilation of the abnormal blood vessels.

Beyond the disfiguring appearance of port-wine stains, the progressive dilation means the patient is more susceptible to spontaneous bleeding or hemorrhaging following minor trauma. Bleeding also may increase the likelihood of infection.

Do all areas of the body respond the same to laser treatment?

Some areas of the body are more difficult to treat than others. Typically, the central portion of the face and the lower arms, hands, lower legs and feet are more resistant to laser therapy than other parts of the body.

What does the skin look like after laser treatment?

In most cases, the treated area of skin will be bruised after each session. Bruising typically lasts for one to two weeks.

The risks associated with laser treatments are small and changes in skin color and texture are rare.

What are the options for anesthesia or pain control?

Parents and patients often ask about the choices of anesthesia for port-wine stain treatment. For young infants with large port-wine stains or anyone with lesions close to the eye, we use general anesthesia on an outpatient basis.

For adults, local anesthesia is usually sufficient to ensure comfort during treatment.

Questions? Please call us at 949-824-7997.

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