Conditions + Treatments

Pulsed Dye Laser Patient Stories

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Ryan's Story

When Ryan was born, a dark red birthmark covered his left eyelid and part of his forehead. Within days, Children's dermatologist Marilyn Liang, MD, diagnosed the discoloration as a capillary malformation, a common type of birthmark sometimes called a "port wine stain" because of its purplish color.

Port Wine Stain

Over time, Ryan's port wine stain has slowly faded with the help of laser treatment. Every three months, he sees Dr. Liang who uses a device called a pulsed dye laser to destroy the abnormal blood vessels beneath the skin. The treatment, which usually takes about ten minutes, feels like a rubber band snapping against the skin. If anesthesia is not used, an anesthetic cream is used to numb the area being treated.

"He doesn't like when it's happening," says Pam. "We have to hold him in place. But by the time we're in the car on the way home he's fine, unless it's a sedation treatment which takes a bit longer to recover."

Immediately after treatment, a purple discoloration appears at the treatment site. Ava calls it "Ryan's polka dots." This discoloration lasts for about a week then slowly fades to normal skin color. To ensure the best results, Ryan must avoid the sun and wear a hat or sunscreen to prevent a tan which inhibits the laser treatment and increases the chance of side effects.

So far, Ryan has had seven pulsed dye laser treatments and will need further sessions as he continues to grow.

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- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital
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