Accessibility and reliability of cutaneous laser surgery information on the World Wide Web

J Am Acad Dermatol. 2000 May;42(5 Pt 1):784-6. doi: 10.1067/mjd.2000.103044.


The World Wide Web has provided the public with easy and affordable access to a vast range of information. However, claims may be unsubstantiated and misleading. The purpose of this study was to use cutaneous laser surgery as a model to assess the availability and reliability of Web sites and to evaluate this resource for the quality of patient and provider education. Three commercial methods of searching the Internet were used, identifying nearly 500,000 possible sites. The first 100 sites listed by each search engine (a total of 300 sites) were compared. Of these, 126 were listed repeatedly within a given retrieval method, whereas only 3 sites were identified by all 3 search engines. After elimination of duplicates, 40 sites were evaluated for content and currency of information. The most common features included postoperative care suggestions, options for pain management or anesthesia, a description of the way in which lasers work, and the types of lasers used for different procedures. Potential contraindications to laser procedures were described on fewer than 30% of the sites reviewed. None of the sites contained substantiation of claims or referrals to peer-reviewed publications or research. Because of duplication and the prioritization systems of search engines, the ease of finding sites did not correlate with the quality of the site's content. Our findings show that advertisements for services exceed useful information.

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Internet*
  • Laser Therapy*
  • Skin Diseases / surgery*