Long-term psychological impact and perceived efficacy of pulsed-dye laser therapy for patients with port-wine stains

Kristen Hansen, Clarence D. Kreiter, Marcy Rosenbaum, Duane C. Whitaker, Christopher J. Arpey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND. The rationale for treatment of patients with port-wine stain (PWS) birthmarks has focused on the belief that eventual soft-tissue hypertrophy and negative psychological effects might be diminished or avoided. Pulsed-dye laser (PDL) therapy has become widely accepted as the treatment of choice for PWS, and a variety of studies have been conducted that evaluate its short-term efficacy. Long-term data regarding outcome and patient satisfaction are lacking. OBJECTIVE. Our objective was to evaluate the long-term efficacy of pulsed-dye laser therapy from the patient's perspective. METHODS. A survey was mailed to all patients or parents of minor patients whose last known laser treatment was performed between January 1, 1989, and January 1, 1996. Patients were asked to quantify changes in their PWS as well as their psychological well-being. A formal qualitative analysis was performed on their written comments as well. RESULTS. A total of 164 surveys were mailed to the most recent address available by the patient record. Fifty-two surveys were returned as undeliverable, and 55 evaluable surveys were returned, yielding a 49% overall return rate for patients who could be located. The mean age of respondents was 28.8 years, 96% of whom were white and 62% female. The mean number of years since last treatment was 7.04. The vast majority of patients noted little or no change in texture, height, or dimension of their PWS, whereas 62% noted color improvement. A majority or patients (60%) worried less about their appearance after treatment, whereas a similar number (61%) believed their ability to make friends or meet others was unaffected by treatment. Only 19% thought others looked at or treated them differently because of their PWS. Overall, 48% of patients indicated satisfaction with treatment, 24% dissatisfaction, and 28% neutral. On a 10-point scale indicating their likelihood of recommending treatment to someone similarly affected, the mean score was 7.42. Men were significantly and consistently less satisfied with treatment than women, despite rating the degree of color improvement similarly to women. Qualitative analysis of patient comments helped validate quantitative data and revealed gender differences in satisfaction, as well as correlations with adverse events from treatment, desire for additional treatment, and a trend toward more positive comments with the passage of time. CONCLUSION. The pulsed-dye laser improves the color of PWS over long periods of time in a majority of patients. Patients tended to worry less about their appearance after treatment, although most believed treatment did not substantially affect their relationship with others or others' view of them. Most patients were satisfied or neutral with regard to satisfaction with therapy and would recommend treatment to others. A minority of patients was dissatisfied with treatment, and men were more likely to be dissatisfied. Additional long-term and prospective studies will be helpful in assessing the physical and psychosocial impact of PDL for PWS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)49-55
Number of pages7
JournalDermatologic Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003


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