Use of laser therapy does not significantly improve acne

06/10/04

Additional research is needed before laser therapy can be recommended as a treatment for acne, according to a study in the June 16 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Acne is a common disorder that has the potential to negatively affect the lives of millions of individuals, according to information in the article. In addition to the sometimes more short-term consequences of physical and emotional discomfort associated with this condition, acne also carries the risk of scarring that may serve as a permanent reminder of the disorder and thus prolong its psychological impact. Therefore, the development of safer, more convenient, and more effective treatments for acne is highly desirable. Treatment with various lasers has been reported to improve acne.

Jeffrey S. Orringer, M.D., and colleagues with the University of Michigan Medical School, Ann Arbor, Mich., evaluated the clinical efficacy of a type of laser treatment, pulsed dye laser therapy, for the treatment of acne.

The study was a randomized, controlled, clinical trial that included 40 patients aged 13 years or older with facial acne, conducted at an academic referral center from August 2002 to September 2003. Patients received one or two pulsed dye laser treatments to half of the face. The degree of acne was measured through blinded clinical assessments (lesion counts) and the use of standardized bilateral serial photographs comparing the treated and untreated sides of the face.

The researchers found no significant improvement in facial acne from the laser treatment. Changes in lesion counts for both sides of the face showed no statistically significant differences from baseline to week 12. Grading of serial photographs confirmed the clinical assessments.

"The fact that our study does not substantiate the positive results recently reported [in other studies] is not an indictment of laser therapy for acne in general, and does not necessarily rule out the possible role of this particular pulsed dye laser. However, it does suggest that additional well-designed studies are needed before the use of the pulsed dye laser becomes a part of acne therapy," the authors conclude. (JAMA. 2004;291:2834-2839. Available post-embargo at JAMA.com)

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