Background: Melasma is distressing for patients and challenging for physicians to treat. Clinical data from controlled comparative studies is lacking to support the efficacy, longevity, and safety of laser treatments for melasma.
Objective: Compare the efficacy and safety of low fluence Q-switched neodymium-doped yttrium aluminum garnet (1,064 nm) laser (Nd:YAG) versus low-fluence Q-switched alexandrite laser (755 nm) (QSAL) for the treatment of facial melasma.
Methods: Twenty male and female subjects with moderate to severe mixed-type melasma on both sides of the face were randomized to six, weekly treatments with the low-fluence Q-switched Nd:YAG laser on one side and the low-fluence QSAL to the other side. Two independent investigators conducted Modified Melasma Area and Severity Index (MMASI) evaluations and subjects completed self-assessment questionnaires at baseline, after three treatments and each follow-up visit 2, 12, and 24 weeks after the last treatment. Standardized digital photographs were taken at baseline and at each subsequent follow-up visit.
Results: One male and fifteen females, mean age of 43.4 (range 32-64) years, completed the 29-week study. Both laser treated sides showed a significant improvement in MMASI evaluations after two treatments (22% improvement on the QS-Nd:YAG, 17% QSAL) and each follow-up visit 2 (36% QS-Nd:YAG; 44% QSAL), 12 (27% QS-Nd:YAG; and 24% QSAL), and 24 weeks (27% QS-Nd:YAG; and 19% QSAL) after the last treatment, but no significant difference was seen between study groups at any visit. There was also no significant difference in subject evaluation of improvement between both treatment sides at any visit. Both laser treated sides were tolerated well, and no serious adverse events were noted. Only one subject was taken out of the study due to development of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation bilaterally.
Conclusion: Both low-fluence Q-switched Nd:YAG and low-fluence QSAL were equally effective at improving moderate to severe mixed-type facial melasma.
Limitations: This was a single-center trial and patients were not able to use complimentary lightening agents during the study.
Keywords: Q-switched Nd:YAG; Q-switched alexandrite laser; low fluence; melasma.
© 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.