Effects of hypobaric pressure on human skin: feasibility study for port wine stain laser therapy (part I).
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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Since the development of laser-induced photothermolysis for the therapy of port wine stain (PWS) birthmarks, clinical results have shown that dark purple lesions usually respond well to the first three to five treatments. However, for most PWS, complete blanching is never achieved, and the lesion stabilizes at a red-pink color. The aim of this feasibility study is to demonstrate that with the aid of a local vacuum applied to the lesion site prior to laser exposure, photocoagulation of the smaller PWS blood vessels may be successfully achieved. STUDY DESIGN/MATERIALS AND METHODS: Suction cups were designed to fit onto the hand pieces of commercial laser devices used for PWS laser therapy. One subject with normal skin and another with PWS skin were recruited for this study. Laser pulses of various fluences were applied at atmospheric pressure or shortly after (5-15 seconds) hypobaric pressures (17-51 kPa) were placed as test sites on the forearm of both subjects. The laser-induced purpura at the test sites was documented over the course of 1 week on both subjects and the resulting PWS blanching was optically quantified by visible reflectance spectrometry 7 months after therapy. RESULTS: For the subject with normal skin, the laser fluence needed with hypobaric pressure (51 kPa) to induce similar purpura intensity to that observed with atmospheric pressure was approximately 35% lower. For PWS skin, all suction application times (5-15 seconds) and hypobaric pressures (17-51 kPa) resulted in more intense purpura and the PWS blanching 7 months after treatment was clinically significant for test sites treated with hypobaric pressures ranging from 17 to 34 kPa. CONCLUSIONS: The temporary and controlled dilation of the targeted blood vessels achieved with a local vacuum can significantly reduce the "small-vessel-limitation" in the treatment of PWS without increasing the risk of epidermal damage.