Anesthetic techniques used for pulsed dye laser (PDL) in the treatment of port-wine birthmarks: An exploratory assessment of current attitudes and practice patterns among pediatric dermatologists in the United States

Pediatr Dermatol. 2021 May;38(3):575-579. doi: 10.1111/pde.14502. Epub 2021 Feb 21.


Background/objectives: Pulsed dye laser (PDL) is the gold standard for treating port-wine birthmarks (PWBs), but no consensus exists regarding anesthetic techniques when performing PDL for PWB. Given potential adverse neurocognitive effects from general anesthesia (GA) exposure in early childhood, we sought to establish current attitudes and practice patterns regarding anesthesia when treating PWB with PDL.

Methods: An electronic REDCap survey was distributed to members of the Pediatric Dermatology Research Alliance (PeDRA) and the Society for Pediatric Dermatology (SPD) via email. Aggregate, anonymized results were reported.

Results: Among 47 respondents, the majority (83%) identified as board-certified pediatric dermatologists. When treating children <4 years old, 70% endorsed some use of topical anesthesia. Although 87% reported concerns about long-term side effects on development and school performance affecting their pursuit of GA, 61% reported use of GA for PDL in children <4 years old. All 4 (100%) respondents whose PDL was located in the operating room (OR) setting reported use of GA, compared to 6 of 17 (35%) respondents whose PDL machine was not located in the OR. Providers were more likely to use GA in patients between 1 and 4 years old (70%) compared to those <1 year old (2%).

Conclusions: Diverse practice patterns reiterate the need for a standardized anesthetic approach for PDL in young children and continued research on other factors (ie, location/accessibility of PDL, lesion size) impacting anesthesia choices. Given potential neurodevelopmental risks associated with GA, specific guidance to effectively minimize its use in favor of topical anesthetics should be provided.

Keywords: developmental defects; health care delivery; laser; vascular malformation.

MeSH terms

  • Anesthetics, Local
  • Attitude
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dermatologists
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Lasers, Dye* / therapeutic use
  • Port-Wine Stain* / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States


  • Anesthetics, Local