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Review
February 2017

Laser Treatments for Postinflammatory Hyperpigmentation: A Systematic Review

Author Affiliations
  • 1Department of Dermatology, University of California, Davis, Sacramento
  • 2Department of Dermatology, Henry Ford Hospital, Detroit, Michigan
  • 3Dermatology Service, Sacramento Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Mather, California
  • 4Department of Dermatology, State University of New York Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn
 

Copyright 2016 American Medical Association. All Rights Reserved.

JAMA Dermatol. 2017;153(2):199-206. doi:10.1001/jamadermatol.2016.4399
Key Points

Question  Do effective laser treatments for postinflammatory hyperpigmentation exist?

Findings  In this systematic review, multiple lasers were studied; however, most of the studies were not methodologically rigorous, and some studies showed no improvement or worsening of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation after laser treatment. The most extensively studied device in our review, the Q-switched Nd:YAG laser, has shown promising results.

Meaning  Some lasers may be beneficial in the treatment of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation, but evidence suggests that additional studies would be required to determine the benefit of laser treatment of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Abstract

Importance  Lasers are gaining interest as a treatment option for postinflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH) but can pose a clinical dilemma given the risk for laser-induced or exacerbated PIH.

Objective  To assess the clinical evidence for the use of lasers in the treatment of PIH.

Evidence Review  A systematic review was performed by searching PubMed databases from January 1, 1990, through May 31, 2016. Included studies involved laser treatment for PIH with the degree of pigmentation as a measure of outcome. The search was filtered to include only clinical studies written in the English language. Study methods were analyzed and the reproducibility of the studies was graded. Outcome measures varied from study to study and included concentration of melanin and hemoglobin, patient satisfaction questionnaires, clinical photography, subjective clinical improvement, light microscopy, melanin index, reflectance spectroscopy, and/or skin biopsy evaluated by a blinded dermatopathologist.

Findings  Of 1295 results, 20 unique studies with 224 patients met the inclusion criteria. These studies included 1 randomized clinical observer-blinded study (6 patients), 4 nonrandomized clinical trials (133 patients), 1 cohort study (34 patients), 7 case series (44 patients), and 7 case reports (7 patients). Multiple lasers were studied; however, most of the studies were not methodologically rigorous. Some studies showed no improvement or worsening of PIH after laser treatment. The most extensively studied device was the Q-switched Nd:YAG laser, which has shown promising results based on multiple outcome measures as listed above.

Conclusions and Relevance  Some lasers may be beneficial in the treatment of PIH. The evidence suggests that additional studies would be required to determine the benefit of laser treatment of PIH.

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