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Am Fam Physician. 2005;71(5):1007-1008

Because most acne treatments are inconvenient to use or are associated with adverse effects, new treatment possibilities are always of interest. In particular, phototherapy has been reported to improve lesions. Orringer and colleagues examined the beneficial effects of pulsed dye laser therapy on acne.

Recruited patients were required to be 13 years of age or older, in good health, willing and able to comply with the study protocol, and to have visible evidence of acne. Recruits were excluded if they had used oral retinoids within one year of the study or had used topical treatments within the past month. The authors randomized patients to two treatment groups. The first group received one pulsed dye laser treatment, while the second group received two treatments two weeks apart. Patients in both groups had one half of their face treated, with the untreated half of the face serving as a control. Evaluating physicians who were blinded to treatment group counted the lesions every two weeks. Photographs, which also were obtained at two-week intervals throughout the study, were evaluated by dermatologists. The main focus of comparison was how the treated and untreated sides of the face changed over time from baseline.

Of the 40 randomized patients, 14 completed the one-treatment arm of the study and 12 completed the two-treatment arm. No statistically significant difference in efficacy was found between groups. In addition, there was no statistically significant difference between untreated and treated sides of the face at 12 weeks when compared with baseline. Other measures to determine differences (e.g., a measure of sebum production) also showed no differences.

The authors conclude that pulsed dye laser therapy was not effective in treating acne in this study setting. One of this study’s strengths was using treated and untreated sides of the face for comparison.

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