Laser therapy for cutaneous hypervascular malformations such as port-wine stain birthmarks is currently not feasible for dark-skinned individuals. We study the effects of pulse duration, radiant exposure, and cryogen spray cooling (CSC) on the thermal response of skin, using a Monte Carlo based optical-thermal model. Thermal injury to the epidermis decreases with increasing pulse duration during irradiation at a constant radiant exposure; however, maintaining vascular injury requires that the radiant exposure also increase. At short pulse durations, only a minimal increase in radiant exposure is necessary for a therapeutic effect to be achieved because thermal diffusion from the vessels is minimal. However, at longer pulse durations the radiant exposure must be greatly increased. There exists an optimum pulse duration at which minimal damage to the epidermis and significant injury within the targeted vasculature occur. For example, the model predicts optimum pulse durations of approximately 1.5, 6, and 20 ms for vessel diameters of 40, 80, and 120 μm, respectively. Optimization of laser pulse duration and radiant exposure in combination with CSC may offer a means to treat cutaneous lesions in dark-skinned individuals.
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