BACKGROUND. Pulsed-dye laser treatment has been shown to be highly effective for the treatment of facial telangiectasia. Posttreatment purpura after such treatment has limited patient acceptance of the procedure. OBJECTIVE. To determine whether purpura-free treatment with recently introduced variable-pulsed pulsed-dye lasers can effectively reduce facial telangiectasia. METHODS. This was a prospective, randomized, controlled, nonblinded trial. Eleven patients received variable-pulse pulsed-dye laser treatment with and without induction of purpura. Telangiectasia were graded on a "telangiectasia density scale," on which a 1 signified extremely fine, sparsely distributed telangiectasia, and 5 referred to thick, ropelike telangiectasia covering the affected area. For each subject, two areas on either side of the facial midline with equivalent telangiectasia density ratings were randomized to the purpura and purpura-free treatment groups, respectively. All treatments used a 7-mm spot size and a 10-ms pulse duration. The fluence associated with the purpura threshold for each patient was determined in test areas. Purpura-free treatment entailed a fluence 1.0 J/cm2 less than the purpura threshold, and purpura-level treatment entailed a fluence 0.5 J/cm2 greater than the threshold. RESULTS. Six weeks after a single purpura-free treatment, mean telangiectasia ratings were reduced from 2.7 to 2.4. Purpura-level treatments resulted in a decrease to 1.4 from the same baseline. Thicker, denser telangiectasia appeared to benefit more from purpura-level treatment (a mean telangiectasia density scale reduction of 1.7) than finer, sparser telangiectasia (a mean reduction of 0.8). In 81% of cases, both investigators and patients rated the side treated with purpura as undergoing a greater reduction in telangiectasia density. CONCLUSION. Although facial telangiectasia do improve after a single purpura-free treatment with the variable-pulse pulsed-dye laser, they improve more after purpura is induced. Purpura-free and purpura-level treatments may be close to equivalent for treating fine telangiectasia, but purpura-level treatments have a distinct advantage for treating thicker telangiectasia. Significantly, the variable-pulse pulsed-dye laser offers patients the option of effective treatment of some telangiectasia without bruising.
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