Background: Melasma is a common hypermelanosis of the face. The use of a classical Q-switched ruby laser (QSRL) to treat melasma is discussed controversially and is associated with frequent adverse effects, such as hyper- or hypopigmentation. Recently a fractional-mode (FRx) QSRL was developed to minimize the adverse effects of classical QSRL. The objective of this research was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of a novel FRx-QSRL in the treatment of melasma in Caucasian patients.
Methods: We performed a retrospective study of 25 Caucasian melasma patients (Fitzpatrick skin types I to III). Patients received one to three FRx-QSRL treatments (Tattoostar FRx, Asclepion Laser Technologies, Jena, Germany) at pulse energies of 4 to 8 J/cm2. Three blinded investigators independently evaluated the melasma area and severity index (MASI) score before treatment and at the four- to six-week follow-ups. At additional three-month follow-ups, patients evaluated subjective improvement, pain and over-all satisfaction with the treatment according to a numeric analogue score (NAS). Side effects were documented.
Results: At four to six weeks post laser treatment for a mean of 1.4 sessions, we observed a significant (P=0.0001) reduction of the MASI score from 6.54 to 1.98 (72.3%). Patients rated the pain of the intervention at a mean 2.46 points (0=no pain; 10=maximum pain), the improvement at a mean 5.55 points (0=no improvement; 10=maximum improvement) and the overall satisfaction at a mean 4.66 points (0=not satisfied; 10=maximum satisfaction). After three months, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) and/or recurring melasma were observed in 7 (28%) and 11 (44%) patients, respectively.
Conclusion: The 694-nm FRx-QSRL is a safe and effective option for treating melasma in Caucasian patients. Over periods of >3 months, PIH and/or recurring melasma may develop at significant rates and may reduce patient satisfaction. Multiple treatment sessions with lower pulse energies and/or a post-interventional therapy with hypopigmenting ointments and UV protection may help to minimize these complications.