Public Release: 

No justification for early laser treatment of uncomplicated childhood haemangiomas

N. B. Please note that if you are outside North America the embargo date for all Lancet press material is 0001hours UK time 16 August 2002


Early laser treatment of uncomplicated childhood haemangiomas (strawberry birthmarks) is no more beneficial than no intervention, conclude authors of a UK study in this week's issue of THE LANCET.

Childhood haemangiomas--the most common soft tissue tumours of infancy--occur in around 10% of children under one year of age. 90% of haemangiomas occur in the first month of life; they may continue to grow for six to eight months, most disappearing naturally by ten years of age. Although generally benign, haemangiomas can be complicated by ulceration, infection, bleeding and occlusion of vital structures. Lesions--especially on the face - may cause cosmetic disfigurement. A wait and see policy is often advised; however use of laser therapy (pulsed dye lasers [PDL]) has been introduced in recent years, although its effectiveness remains in doubt.

In a prospective, randomised controlled trial to assess the difference between a wait and see policy and PDL, Kapila Batta from Birmingham Children's Hospital, UK, and colleagues randomised 121 children aged between 1 and 14 weeks to receive either no treatment or PDL.

The number of children whose lesions showed complete clearance or minimal residual signs at 1 year was not significantly different in the PDL treated and observation groups (42% and 44%, respectively). The number of children whose parents considered the haemangioma to be a problem at 1 year also did not differ much between groups (18% and 15%, respectively). However, 28% of infants treated with PDL had skin atrophy (thinning) compared with only 8% of children not treated. The incidence of complications was similar in the 2 groups. The only objective measure of resolution that improved with PDL treatment was haemangioma redness

Kapila Batta comments: "Our results do not show any useful benefit of early PDL treatment in uncomplicated haemangiomas. Furthermore, treated lesions are at increased risk of skin atrophy and hypopigmentation. The long-term results of this study are important, since 1 year may be too early to assess the benefit of early laser treatment."


Contact: Dr Kapila Batta, Department of Dermatology, The Birmingham Children's Hospital NHS Trust, Steelhouse Lane, Birmingham B4 6NL, UK; T) +44 (0)121 333 8225; F) +44 (0)121 333 8231; E)

Dr Ulrich Hohenleutner, Department of Dermatology, University Of Regensburg, D-93042 Regensberg, Germany; E)

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