Background and objective: To systematically review studies of laser treatment of infantile hemangioma (IH).
Study design/methods and materials: We searched multiple databases including MEDLINE® and EMBASE from 1982 to June 2015. Two investigators independently screened studies against predetermined criteria and extracted key data. Investigators independently assessed study risk of bias and the strength of the evidence of the body of literature.
Results: We identified 29 studies addressing lasers: 4 randomized controlled trials, 8 retrospective cohort studies, and 17 case series. Lasers varied across studies in type, pulse width, or cooling materials. Most comparative studies (n = 9) assessed variations of pulsed dye laser (PDL) and examined heterogeneous endpoints. Most studies reported on treatment of cutaneous lesions. Overall, longer pulse PDL with epidermal cooling was the most commonly used laser for cutaneous lesions; Nd:YAG was the most commonly used intralesionally. Most studies reported a higher success rate with longer pulse PDL compared with observation in managing the size of IH, although the magnitude of effect differed substantially. CO2 laser was used for subglottic IH in a single study, and was noted to have a higher success rate and lower complication rate than both Nd:YAG and observation. Studies comparing laser with β-blockers or in combination with β-blockers reported greater improvements in lesion size in combination arms versus β-blockers alone and greater effects of lasers on mixed superficial and deep IH. Strength of the evidence for outcomes after laser treatments ranged from insufficient to low for effectiveness outcomes. Strength of the evidence was insufficient for the effects of laser compared with β-blockers or in combination with β-blockers as studies evaluated different agents and laser types. Studies assessing outcomes after CO2 and Nd:YAG lasers typically reported some resolution of lesion size, but heterogeneity among studies limits our abilities to draw conclusions.
Conclusion: Studies of laser treatment of IH primarily addressed different laser modalities compared with observation or other laser modalities. PDL was the most commonly studied laser type, but multiple variations in treatment protocols did not allow for demonstration of superiority of a single method. Most studies reported a higher success rate with longer pulse PDL compared to observation in managing the size of IH, although the magnitude of effect differed substantially. Studies generally found PDL more effective than other types of lasers for cutaneous lesions. When first introduced as a primary treatment for IH, various laser modalities generally offered superior outcomes compared with steroid therapy and observation. In the era of β-blocker therapy, laser treatment may retain an important role in the treatment of residual and refractory lesions.
Keywords: Nd:YAG; pulsed dye laser; vascular lesions.
© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.