Laser equipment changing lives

Cutting-edge Pulsed Dye Laser treatment is making a dramatic difference to the lives of WA children born with vascular disfigurements, thanks to a generous PMH Foundation grant.

Thanks to support from Rio Tinto, PMH Foundation recently funded a $140,000 Pulsed Dye Laser machine for the hospital’s Dermatology Department, to help treat children born with vascular birthmarks such as port wine stains and haemangiomas – common birthmarks which mostly occur in the head and neck and affect as many as 1 in every 10 babies born.

The Pulsed Dye Laser machine is a dye-based laser system which penetrates blood vessels for short bursts of treatment. Through consistent use over the course of about one to three years, the Pulsed Dye Laser gradually dulls vascular blemishes including port wine stains and haemangiomas.

Dermatology Clinical Nurse Specialist Narissa Wieland explained the arrival of the new machine funded by PMH Foundation supporters ensured WA children were being treated with the most up-to-date technology possible.

“Having this new piece of equipment basically means when we are treating children we’re able to cover a greater surface area with less ‘zapping’, which is a huge improvement in terms of minimising the stress of the experience for children and their parents, and it means we can treat children faster.  It’s also a lot more compact, so is easy to transport from the clinic to theatre,” Narissa explained.

Princess Margaret Hospital’s Dermatology Department undertakes about 400 laser treatments per year. Some children are treated as outpatients through the Department’s clinic, while others undergo general anaesthesia during the treatment.

“We start treatment as early as possible, because the aim is to eliminate the vascular birthmark before children start school, which is when they become more conscious of visible pigmentations, and can be stigmatised by other children,” Narissa said.

“It’s a cosmetic procedure, but if port wine stains aren’t treated early there’s a risk in adulthood of the stain thickening and developing vascular nodules which bleed readily, requiring surgical intervention and reconstruction. The Pulsed Dye Laser machine allows us to have a minimal intervention for maximum results.

“It’s a life-changing treatment helping to ensure the children are happy and confident by the time they start school.”

One of the children benefitting from the new Pulsed Dye Laser machine is three year old Lucy, pictured above who has had over 15 sessions with the Pulsed Dye Laser machine. Lucy has Sturge-Weber Syndrome a rare condition that is characterised by congenital facial birthmark and neurological abnormalities.

Thanks to the support of PMH Foundation donors, the redness of Lucy’s birthmark has decreased dramatically and will continue to reduce with further treatment. But not only cosmetic, by reducing the birthmark, Lucy’s chances of developing vascular nodules are greatly diminished.

Lucy and her family recently appeared on a Today Tonight episode talking about their experience with the Pulsed Dye Laser machine. Watch the video.

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