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Lasers Surg Med. 2004;34(2):182-8.

Increase of dermal blood volume fraction reduces the threshold for laser-induced purpura: implications for port wine stain laser treatment.

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  • 1Norwegian University of Science and Technology, NO-7491, Trondheim, Norway.



The average success rate in achieving total blanching of port wine stain (PWS) lesions treated with laser-induced selective photothermolysis is below 25%, even after multiple treatments. This is because smaller diameter (5-20 microm) PWS blood vessels are difficult to destroy with selective photothermolysis since the volumetric heat generated by absorption of laser light is insufficient to adequately heat the entire vessel wall. The aim of this study was to investigate a potential technique for more efficient photocoagulation of small diameter PWS blood vessels in PWS that respond poorly to selective photothermolysis.


The blood volume fraction (BVF) in the upper dermis of the forearm of human volunteers was increased by placing an inflated blood pressure cuff on the upper arm. Applied pressures were in the range of 80-100 mm Hg for up to 5 minutes. The increased BVF was determined by matching reflectance spectra measured with that computed using a diffusion model. The impact of increased BVF on purpura formation induced by a 0.45 milliseconds pulsed dye laser (PDL) at 585 nm wavelength was investigated in normal and in PWS skin.


In the presence of a 100 mm Hg pressure cuff, the BVF, as determined from the diffusion model, increased by a factor of 3 in the forearm and by 6 in the hand. Increasing BVF by a factor of 3 corresponds to an increase in blood vessel diameters by a factor of radical 3 approximately 1.7. BVF increased at 1-3 minutes after application of the pressure cuff, remained constant at 3-5 minutes, and returned to baseline values at 3 minutes after removal of the pressure cuff. Approximately 40% less radiant exposure was needed to induce the same amount of purpura after PDL irradiation when the blood pressure cuff was used. Applying an 80 mm Hg pressure cuff reduced the required radiant exposure for purpura formation by 30%. Heating of blood vessels was calculated as a function of vessel diameter and of radiant exposure (at 585 nm and at 0.5 and 1.5 milliseconds pulse duration).


Enlarging the vessel lumen, for example, by obstructing venous return, can significantly reduce the "small-vessel-limitation" in PDL treatment of PWS. Dilation of PWS blood vessels enables a more efficient destruction of smaller vessels without increasing the probability of epidermal damage.

Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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