Kids Health Info

Dermatologic skin laser therapy

  • Dermatologic laser therapy (laser therapy on the skin) is used to treat port wine stains, haemangiomas, angiomas, telangiectasia, pigmented spots and other birthmarks and skin issues in children and adults.

    It can be helpful for young children to have these spots, stains and birthmarks (also known as lesions) removed early in life; before possible psychological effects or physical complications might start. Some children can lose their confidence and suffer from low self-esteem because of big or visible marks on their skin.

    The RCH uses lasers that can safely remove or reduce spots, marks and lesions. The laser treats the lesions by removing blood vessels or pigment (colour) just below the surface of the skin. The laser does not damage the surrounding tissue. There is usually no scarring and very little general anaesthesia is needed.

    Treatment 

    Laser therapy treatments at the RCH are routinely done in the Laser Unit or Day of Surgery Centre. The whole process takes about 10 to 20 minutes. 

    The area treated may be sore and red after the laser therapy. Icepacks can help soothe the area. If the area blisters, it may need antibiotic ointment to prevent a skin infection. Contact your child's treating doctor for advice.  

    Different types of lasers used at the RCH

    Q-Switched Yag (QSY) laser

    The QSY laser is used to treat age spots, sunburn freckles, café au lait spots and other dark birthmarks. The laser light is absorbed only by the cells containing extra amounts of pigment (melanin). It destroys the pigment granules (called melanosomes) but does not destroy the surrounding tissues or remove the skin's normal colour.

    V-Beam laser/Candela laser

    This laser selectively destroys small blood vessels in the deep, inner layer (dermis) of the skin without damaging the surrounding tissue or outer layer (epidermis) of the skin. It is used to treat vascular lesions that usually have abnormal blood vessels. These include port wine stains, spider veins of the face, flat strawberry haemangiomas in infants, persistent facial redness and rosacea.

    There is usually some bruising around the area after port wine stain laser treatment. This lasts about seven to 10 days. For most children, the port wine stain will become much lighter after laser treatment. For some children, the stain will almost completely go away. Unfortunately, for a few children, the laser therapy does not work at all. Most children need about four sessions, but sometimes more treatments are needed to get the best results. 

    GentleYag (Long Pulsed YAG laser)

    This laser produces deeply penetrating infrared light that is used to treat deeper pools of blood as seen in venous malformation (i.e. birthmarks that affect deeper veins). It also can be used to stop or slow hair growth but this usually needs ongoing treatment and does not have too much value in children.

    There may be some temporary swelling around the area after 'GentleYag' treatment of venous malformations.

    Apogee (Alexandrite) laser

    This laser is used to treat certain large dark birthmarks (called giant congenital melanocytic naevi). A full explanation will be given during your consultation. 

    C02 (carbon dioxide) laser

    The C02 laser gives out an intense beam of energy that heats and vaporises tissue instantly. It is used to sculpt down abnormal tissues that are raised above the level of the skin's surface. It is mostly used at the RCH to treat facial lumps, for example in tuberous sclerosis and warty changes seen in epidermal naevi.

    Treatment with pigment lasers may cause temporary scabs and crusting. The CO2 laser leaves raw areas that take up to 10 days to heal. Some children may also develop light or dark spots in the area treated. The spots usually fade with time.

    Key points to remember

    • Skin (dermatologic) lasers are used to treat many skin conditions in children, such as port wine stains or vascular lesions.
    • Your child will be asleep during the procedure and won't remember the treatment or feel any pain.
    • The area treated may be sore, swollen, red or blistered after the treatment. Your child's doctor will advise you what to do if any of these things happen. If you have any concerns, contact your child's treating doctor. 

    For more information

    • A full explanation of all treatments will be given to you during the first consultation, before your child has treatment. If there is anything you are not sure about please ask the doctor.
    • If you have more questions about dermatological laser treatment please contact The Royal Children's Hospital Laser Unit, Department of Dermatology,
      T: (03) 9345 6441.
    • Kids Health Info factsheet: Port wine stains

     

    Developed by RCH Depts of Dermatology and Day of  Surgery Centre. First published Oct 2006. Updated November 2010.


Disclaimer 
This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.