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At UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, we believe parents and guardians can contribute to the success of this procedure and invite you to participate. Please read the following information to learn about the procedure and how you can help.
The majority of pulsed dye laser treatments are used to remove capillary (CAP-ill-air-ee) malformations, the red to reddish-purple patches on the skin commonly known as “port wine stains.” These are “birthmarks” that can vary in size and tend to become thicker or darker with age. Many parents are concerned how they might affect their child’s self-esteem, especially if they occur on the face. In most cases, there is no known cause of port wine birthmarks. They are usually non-genetic (not inherited) and the majority are benign (non-cancerous). They should always be carefully evaluated before treatment.
Other less common conditions that are treated with the pulsed dye laser include spider veins, spider angiomas (ann-gee-OH-muz), red blotches on the skin, and sometimes hemangiomas (ha-man-gee-OH-muz), thick elevated masses of dilated blood vessels.
During the treatment, the doctor uses a bright light to destroy abnormal blood vessels under the skin.
Once your child has been registered, you and your child will be taken to a holding area where his or her vital signs will be taken. You will then meet with the anesthesiologist and your child’s doctor. The pediatric anesthesiologist — a doctor who specializes in anesthesia for children — will give the medications that will make your child sleep during the surgery. At this time, you will be asked to sign a consent form and may ask any questions about the procedure.
Once questions are answered and the operating room is prepared, your child will be taken into the operating room and given an anesthetic to make him or her go to sleep. If your child is not having general anesthesia, the doctor will apply the anesthetic cream to the area being treated.
Older children who are not having general anesthesia will be given eye protection similar to goggles so the laser light does not harm their eyes. Once this is done or when your child is asleep, the procedure will begin.
Children’s takes every precaution to make sure your child is safe. Risks involved in the pulsed dye laser treatment include:
General anesthesia (an-es-THEEZ-ya) makes your child’s whole body go to sleep and is needed for children under 10 years of age for the pulsed dye laser treatment. General anesthesia will take away the fear young children might have during this procedure. Your child’s reflexes will be completely relaxed. General anesthesia makes the treatment easier and safer to do because your child will not feel any pain or have any memory of it.
In the 2 weeks before the pulsed dye laser treatment, your child should not have aspirin or Motrin®.
When general anesthesia is needed, there are important rules for eating and drinking that must be followed in the hours before the procedure. One business day before your child’s procedure, you will receive a phone call from a nurse between the hours of 1 and 9 p.m. (Nurses do not make these calls on weekends or holidays.) Please have paper and a pen ready to write down these important instructions.
For children older than 12 months:
For infants under 12 months:
For all children:
Once your child has been registered for the treatment, a member of the anesthesia staff will meet with you to take your child’s vital signs, weight and medical history. As the parent or legal guardian, you will be asked to sign a consent form before the anesthesia is given.
While your child is asleep, his or her heart rate, blood pressure, temperature and blood oxygen level will be checked continuously. Your child might have a breathing tube placed while he or she is asleep. If a breathing tube is used, your child might have a sore throat after the procedure.
Following the treatment, your child will be moved to the recovery room. You will be called so that you can be there as he or she wakes up.
While your child is in recovery, your doctor will talk to you about the treatment.
We welcome your help and support during the procedure.
Most children do not require pain medication following the pulsed dye laser treatment. If your child does feel mild pain, you may give him or her over-the-counter Tylenol®.
Your child should keep the treated area dry for 24 hours after the pulsed dye laser treatment. After that, your child can bathe with warm water and a gentle soap, like Johnson & Johnson’s baby soap. Be careful not to roughly scrub the area.
Your child should avoid contact sports and swimming for 3 weeks.
You should call your doctor if:
If your child has any special needs or health issues you feel the doctor needs to know about, please call the Division of Pediatric Plastic Surgery at Children’s before the treatment and ask to speak with a nurse. It is important to notify us in advance about any special needs your child might have.
Children's Hospital's main campus is located in the Lawrenceville neighborhood. Our main hospital address is:
UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
One Children’s Hospital Way
4401 Penn Ave.
Pittsburgh, PA 15224
In addition to the main hospital, Children's has many convenient locations in other neighborhoods throughout the greater Pittsburgh region.
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Interested in giving to Children's Hospital? Support the hospital by making a donation online, joining our Heroes in Healing monthly donor program, or visiting our site to learn about the other ways you can give back.