BACKGROUND: Pulsed dye laser has been used to decrease erythema and telangiectasia associated with scars, including surgical scars. There is limited evidence indicating improved surgical scar appearance if pulsed dye laser treatments are commenced immediately at the time of suture removal. OBJECTIVE: To determine whether a single one-pass pulsed dye laser treatment at the time of suture removal can improve the appearance of surgical scars. METHODS: Randomized controlled trial enrolling 20 patients (complete data for 17 patients) at two geographic sites, with blinded ratings of pre- and post-treatment photographs obtained at various time points. Included patients underwent elliptical excision for atypical nevi of the trunk and/or extremities, with at least one resulting scar of at least 5 cm in length or two scars of at least 2.5 cm in length. For each patient, each scar or half-scar (if a larger scar was used) was randomized to treatment or control groups. Treatment scars received a single one-pass treatment with a 595 nm pulsed dye laser (Vbeam, Candela Corporation, Wayland, MA, USA) at the time of suture removal (ie, 2 weeks after excision) at the following parameters: 7 J/cm2 fluence, 7 mm spot size, 1.5-millisecond pulse duration, and 30-millisecond spray, 20-millisecond delay of dynamic cooling. The treatment area included 1 cm on either side of the scar, and the round laser spots were overlapped 10%. Control scars were not treated with laser. RESULTS: Immediate purpura was induced from the laser treatment. Six weeks after laser treatment, no significant difference was found in the clinical appearance of surgical scars treated with a single pulsed dye laser treatment on suture removal day versus those surgical scars not treated with laser. Parameters on which no significant difference was found included visibility of incision, erythema, hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, induration, and atrophy. Both sets of scars improved over time. CONCLUSIONS: A single pulsed dye laser treatment at the time of suture removal does not appear to have a beneficial effect on clinical scar appearance. The point of minimal benefit for such laser treatments may lie somewhere between one and three treatments.
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