Laser skin therapy is a low-risk, noninvasive procedure used to treat birthmarks, vascular anomalies and other skin conditions. Medical lasers are the standard of care to treat skin and vascular conditions because the strong beam of light can pinpoint a very small area. This lets the doctor avoid damage to surrounding healthy skin and tissue.
There are many different kinds of medical lasers. The pulsed dye laser is most commonly used in children to lighten the color of red lesions, such as hemangiomas and vascular malformations. Light from a pulsed dye laser is absorbed by the redness in the blood vessels of a lesion. It passes through healthy skin, doing no damage. The light heats up the blood vessels and destroys them. Once any bruising at the treatment site fades, the red marks will appear paler.
The pulsed dye laser is used to treat:
Doctors use other types of lasers when children need treatment for pigmented birthmarks, benign (noncancerous) raised birthmarks or hair removal. Other types of lasers include:
For most conditions, children receive a series of four to six laser treatments in an outpatient setting. Laser treatment may be slightly uncomfortable, but treatments are quick, usually lasting just a few minutes. In rare cases, because of the location of a vascular anomaly or the extent of the body surface it covers, children may need surgical anesthesia to put them to sleep during the laser treatment. Doctors at Riley at IU Health make every attempt to perform laser skin therapy without general anesthesia whenever possible.
Laser therapy is faster and results in less swelling and pain than traditional surgery. The word "laser" is short for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Laser therapy produces non-ionizing radiation. It does not have the same health risks associated with long-term exposure to ionizing radiation (the type of radiation produced by X-rays).
Before your child undergoes laser skin therapy, the doctor will talk with you and your child about the benefits, risks and expectations of the laser therapy.
The primary risk in laser skin therapy is damage to the eyes. All patients wear protective goggles during treatment.
On the day before laser skin therapy:
On the day of the laser skin therapy:
Immediately after laser skin therapy:
Once you return home from laser skin therapy:
Riley at IU Health offers a broad range of supportive services to make life better for families who choose us for their children's care.
In addition to our primary hospital location at the Academic Health Center in Indianapolis, IN, we have convenient locations to better serve our communities throughout the state.