How Can I Treat a Port Wine Stain (Vascular Birthmark)?

Doctor Answers 10

Pulse Dye Laser

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A port wine stain is typically treated with a pulse dye laser (PDL). It is important for your treating doctor to have experience treating port wine stains with a PDL because the power settings need to be adjusted depending on the area being treated as there is a risk of damaging the skin and causing scarring. Typically a few treatments are needed to significantly lighten the birthmark. In rare instances the port wine stain does not improve with laser therapy and surgical excision is recommended (should you want it). I recommend seeking care at a vascular birthmark center near you.


Mehdi Sina, MD

New York Facial Plastic Surgeon

Best Treatment for Port Wine Stains

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The gold standard for treating Port Wine Stains (PWS, aka capillary malformations) is a series of laser treatments.  The laser targets the red pigment, and generally speaking, the younger a patient starts treatment, the better the outcome (our center starts treatment as early as 3-6 months of age).  A Pulsed Dye Lasers (PDL) is most commonly used, but KTP and IPL can safely provide good results, too.  

Special considerations exist.  For instance, the further a PWS is from the heart, the more difficult it is to treat.  Also, the more nodular a PWS is, the less likely it is to respond to PDL.  In such cases, deeper penetrating lasers such as IPL and Nd:YAG may be needed. 

One thing for every patient to keep in mind is that studies show that only 25% of lesions have complete clearing after multiple sessions.  On one hand, it is sobering to know that many PWS cannot be fully erased; on the other, it is encouraging news that significant improvement is possible.

Best of luck to you.

Jeffrey Cone, MD
Austin Plastic Surgeon

Port Wine Stain (vascular birthmark removal)

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The treatment of port wine stains involves us primarily of vascular lasers. Pulsed dye lasers are most commonly utilized such as the Vbeam. However, access to more than one wavelength is beneficial, and we will often employ a YAG laser for the deeper components.  Some elements of a mature port wine stain such as bleps need to be handled by excision.  Laser treatment of port wine stains is most effective when started early.  One can expect requiring several sessions. 

Arthur N. Falk, MD
Albany Facial Plastic Surgeon

...Pulse Dye Laser

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This laser if commonly called the V BEam and is one of the best ways to treat flat birthmarks.... 
You may require anywhere between 4-12 sessions, depending on the location, size, and skin colour. Some PWS (port wine stain birthmarks) fade more quickly than others. At Westside Dermatology, we often combine different lasers for different port wine stains, including a v beam , 755 alex or long pulse 1064 Nd Yag for blebs and thicker lesions

Hope that helps, regardsDr Davin LimDermatologist, Cosmetic and Laser Brisbane, AUSTRALIA

Laser best for vascular birthmark (port wine stain)

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Thank you for your question.  There are various ways to remove birthmarks, depending on its etiology.  For example, a birthmark caused due to a vascular problem needs a completely different treatment than a birthmark such as a mole.  More often than not, vascular birthmarks need to have some form of laser treatment.  They can require more, but a laser is generally a minimum.  Other birthmarks such as a mole, can be excised in the office with relative ease.  The size and location will determine the final outcome.  A photograph always helps but there is no substitute for and in person physical examination.  Make sure you visit with a board certified plastic surgeon for the best outcomes.

Port Wine Stain

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The best way to remove this type of birthmark is a pulsed dye laser.  This type of laser targets the red pigment of the blood, targeting the stain and not the skin.



Edward E. Dickerson, IV, MD
Fayetteville Facial Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 127 reviews

Port Wine Stain Removal Fort Lauderdale

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The pulsed dyle laser, PDL, is the most recommended to treat this vascular malformation that can occur anywhere on the body.  The most frequent site prompting clinical treatment is along any of three facial distributions.  The number of treatments range from 1-several depending on the composition of each individual lesion as there are a variety of depths that these anomalous vessels may be located.  Average treatment sessions required in my experience are 3-5.  Patient discomfort can be improved by using topical anesthesia and the clinical results well balance the discomfort experienced during the procedure.  Topical cryogen is now used in most technologies allowing for greater comfort and tolerability. 

Will Richardson, MD
Fort Lauderdale Dermatologic Surgeon

Removing Port Wine Stain/Capillary Vascular Malformation

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The pulsed dye laser is generally regarded as the most effective laser to remove these difficult birthmarks.  Other lasers which can be used are intense pulsed light devices (IPL), KTP, Nd:YAG.  Generally, 7 - 8 treatments are needed to get about 75 - 80% fading of the port wine stain.  The closer the port wine stain is to the heart the better the treatment usually is.  For example, face PWS have a better response than those on the arms or legs.  I recommend using a cooling device with the laser to minimize pain and complications.  Cooling protects the epidermis (top layer of the skin) and allows the laser to be used more effectively.  After treatment, the port wine stain will turn dark purple for 7 - 10 days.  It is important to avoid sun exposure before and after the treatments.  You need to wait until all bruising is resolved before repeating the laser.

John L. Burns Jr., MD
Dallas Plastic Surgeon
4.7 out of 5 stars 56 reviews

Port Wine Stains are effectively treated with Pulse Dye Laser

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Each laser wavelength targets a specific chromophore. For vascular birthmarks, we use a laser known as pulse-dye to target the red color in blood. This effectively removes the vascular birthmark. Although, the depth of the birthmark may be superficial or deep, the majority of these lesions can be removed with multiple sessions.

Raffy Karamanoukian, MD, FACS
Los Angeles Plastic Surgeon
4.8 out of 5 stars 95 reviews

The best way to treat a port wine stain is with a pulsed...

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The best way to treat a port wine stain is with a pulsed dye laser. This type of laser specifically targets the red pigment of the blood, targeting the stain and not the skin.

Depending on the size and location of the port wine stain, you may need multiple treatments and you may be able to get close to 100% resolution.

Jordana S. Gilman, MD
Washington Dermatologic Surgeon

These answers are for educational purposes and should not be relied upon as a substitute for medical advice you may receive from your physician. If you have a medical emergency, please call 911. These answers do not constitute or initiate a patient/doctor relationship.