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Pulsed Dye Laser Treatment

What is a pulsed dye laser?

Lasers are sources of intense light that can be used for treatment of various skin conditions. A pulsed dye laser delivers energy that is absorbed by the red blood cells found near the surface of the skin. This causes the blood vessels to heat up, thicken, and shrink. Since this energy is not absorbed by skin cells, the pulsed dye laser can destroy blood vessels without causing damage or scarring to the surrounding skin.

What is a pulsed dye laser used for?

Pulsed dye lasers have many applications in medicine. For children, these lasers are typically used to treat vascular malformations (e.g., port wine stains) and hyperpigmented scars.

What happens during a pulsed dye laser treatment?

The laser is used to deliver energy to the affected area of the face and/or neck. Since the laser can only treat an area about the size of a dime, larger areas of the skin are treated with multiple pulses of laser light. A large vascular malformation may take as many as 50 to 100 pulses to completely treat.

Although the laser is quite effective in destroying small blood vessels, the body will usually respond by trying to repair the damage. This is why most patients require multiple laser treatments to achieve a more normal skin appearance. In fact, it is not uncommon for port wine stains to require up to 20 treatments before the desired results are obtained.

Laser treatments are commonly performed on teenagers and adults without sedation or anesthesia; this is because adults can tolerate the moderate discomfort that accompanies each laser pulse. Unfortunately, toddlers and children do not tolerate this type of discomfort and must be treated in an operating room under general anesthesia. General anesthesia is very safe and your child will be carefully monitored during the procedure. You will have a chance to talk with the anesthesiologist on the day of surgery to discuss any questions you may have about the anesthesia.

Are there any instructions I need to follow before surgery?

Sunblock for one month before treatment is recommended as tanned skin blocks the laser light and results in a higher chance of bruising.

Your child must have a physical examination by his or her pediatrician or family doctor within 30 days before surgery to make sure he or she is in good health. The doctor you see needs to complete the History and Physical form provided by our office. You must bring the completed form with you the day of surgery.

For your child's safety, it is very important that he or she have an empty stomach when anesthesia is given. Please follow Children’s Minnesota Eating and Drinking Guidelines. If you do not follow these guidelines, your child's surgery will be cancelled.

What can I expect after surgery?

The procedure itself usually takes no more than 10 or 15 minutes. Your child will wake up in the recovery room after surgery. This usually takes no more than 20 to 40 minutes. When your child is awake, he or she will be taken to the discharge area to complete the recovery. You can be with your child once they has been transferred to the discharge area.

  • The most common side effect is bruising which is most pronounced in the first few days and usually clears within 3-10 days.
  • Scarring is extremely rare with the pulsed dye laser.
  • A moisturizer, such as Aquaphor® ointment or Vaseline® jelly, applied 2-3 times per day will help protect the skin and prevent unwanted dryness.
  • Pain after the treatment is rare. You can treat mild discomfort with Tylenol® (acetaminophen).
  • You will get a Discharge Instructions sheet before you go home which will indicate how much medicine to give and how often.
  • Fevers up to 102.0 F are considered normal after surgery. Call your provider for fevers over 102.0F that do not come down with Tylenol® (acetaminophen) or Children's Motrin® (ibuprofen).
  • Your child should avoid sun exposure to minimize the chance of unwanted skin discoloration.


The information provided in this brochure is not specific to your child. This information is provided as a service to our patients. The information is for educational and informational purposes only and should NOT be used as a substitute for the advice of your child’s physician.

If you have any questions, please call Children’s ENT and Facial Plastic Surgery Clinic.

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This page is not specific to your child, but provides general information on the topic above. If you have any questions, please call your clinic. For more reading material about this and other health topics, please call or visit Children's Minnesota Family Resource Center library, or visit

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