A review of treatment of port-wine stains with pulsed dye laser in fitzpatrick skin type IV-VI

Arch Dermatol Res. 2023 Nov;315(9):2505-2511. doi: 10.1007/s00403-023-02640-3. Epub 2023 May 31.


Port-Wine Stains are a congenital vascular malformation that affect 0.3-0.5% of newborns. It is a benign capillary malformation that commonly occurs on the head and neck. It is formed by progressive dilation of the post-capillary venules, and as the patient ages it may be associated with hypertrophy and nodularity which can lead to cosmetic disfigurement and psychological aggravation. There are many choices of treatment such as cryosurgery, cosmetic tattooing, and dermabrasion, amongst others. The treatment of choice is pulse dye laser (PDL) because it is both effective and safe to use. In darker skin types (Fitzpatrick skin types IV-VI), treatment is more difficult. Caution when treating darker skin types with PDL comes from the fact that there is an inverse correlation between vessel specificity of the PDL and skin pigmentation. In this review, we will be reviewing the literature and discussing the manuscripts that describe the treatment of PWS on patients with fitzpatrick skin type IV-VI. Authors searched the PubMed Medline in the English language from database inception through December 2022 for eligible articles. The keywords searched included "PDL," "pulse dye laser," "skin of color," "Fitzpatrick skin types IV-VI," "fitzpatrick," "pigmented skin," "Port-wine stain," "PWS", and "pulse dye laser." The articles that were included discussed PDL in the treatment of PWS in patients of skin of color. Any additional similar articles that were cited in our search were also included. Articles that were excluded did not discuss Fitzpatrick skin types IV-VI, darker skin type, or PDL. Data collected from each article included the number of participants, Fitzpatrick skin type, age, and laser parameters. There were 120 articles that were reviewed from our search and a total of nine articles met inclusion criteria with 241 patients that were considered Fitzpatrick skin type IV-VI. The patients were of a wide range of ages from 1 month to 74 years old. In our review, patients who are treated at a younger age had better results than when treated at an older age. The results show that darker skin individuals have better results when treated at a younger age compared to adults, they can experience complete resolution. Adults who were treated saw a variation of results, from improvements in the appearance to hyperpigmentation/hypopigmentation or scarring of the treated area. Patients who are Fitzpatrick skin type IV-VI are at higher risk of adverse events when treated with PDL for PWS when compared to patients of other skin types. Studies show that PDL can be beneficial for PWS in patients of skin of color; however, there are risks of hyperpigmentation, hypopigmentation, and scarring that are important to take into consideration when treating these patients. Further research is warranted to improve the understanding of PDL for PWS in patients of skin of color.

Keywords: FST IV–VI; Fitzpatrick skin types IV–VI; PDL; Pigmented skin; Port-wine stain PWS; Pulse dye laser; Skin of color.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Albinism, Oculocutaneous*
  • Cicatrix
  • Humans
  • Hyperpigmentation*
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Lasers, Dye* / adverse effects
  • Port-Wine Stain* / surgery
  • Treatment Outcome

Supplementary concepts

  • Dilution, Pigmentary