Treatment of Acne Vulgaris With a Pulsed Dye Laser: A Randomized Controlled Trial

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The high prevalence of acne vulgaris and its significant morbidity underscore the need for convenient, low-risk, and efficacious therapy. Treatment with various lasers has been reported to improve acne.


To evaluate the clinical efficacy of pulsed dye laser therapy in the treatment of acne.

Design, Setting, and Patients

Randomized, single-blind, controlled, split-face clinical trial of a volunteer sample of 40 patients aged 13 years or older with facial acne conducted at an academic referral center from August 2002 to September 2003.


One or 2 nonpurpuric pulsed dye laser treatments to half of the face (fluence of 3 J/cm2), serial blinded clinical assessments (lesion counts), and grading of acne severity using standardized bilateral serial photographs.

Main Outcome Measures

Comparison of the changes in lesion counts from baseline to 12 weeks between treated and untreated sides of the face and changes in photographic evidence of acne severity as graded by a panel of dermatologists blinded to treatment assignment.


After 12 weeks, using intent-to-treat analysis with last observation carried forward, there were no significant differences between laser-treated and untreated skin for changes in mean papule counts (−4.2 vs −2.2; P = .08), mean pustule counts (0 vs −1.0; P = .12), or mean comedone counts (2.9 vs 1.6; P = .63). Grading of serial photographs confirmed the clinical assessments, showing no significant mean (SE) differences in Leeds scores (range, 1–12) for treated skin (3.98 [0.32] at baseline and 3.94 [0.27] at week 12) compared with untreated skin (3.83 [0.32] at baseline and 3.79 [0.28] at week 12) (P>.99).


In this study, the nonpurpuric pulsed dye laser therapy did not result in significant improvement of facial acne. More research is needed before this laser therapy may be recommended as an acne treatment.

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