If you have a port-wine (vascular birthmark), café-au-lait (pigmentation birthmark), or other type of birthmark in a prominent spot on your body and you find it unsightly or embarrassing, have you ever considered a birthmark removal procedure?
Video of One Patient Having Mole Removed via Laser
Today there are a variety of plastic surgery techniques for removing birthmarks. One of the most common and simplest procedures is laser birthmark removal, but there are others and some of them depend on the type, size or location of the birthmark. Many of these techniques are commonly used for mole removal, freckles removal, tattoo removal and scar removal as well.
Techniques for Removing Birthmarks
- Laser Birthmark Removal – Birthmarks near the surface of the skin, such as port-wine stains, can usually be removed with a laser, regardless of the age of the patient. The laser is aimed at the skin and emits a pulsating light which penetrates and heats the blood vessels beneath the skin. The heat causes the vessels to shrink and disappear and the birthmark to lighten or fade. You can expect a session to last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours based on the size and extent of the birthmark.
- Surgical Techniques - When non-surgical treatments have not been successful or are not possible (such as when a hemangioma is located on an internal organ), surgery can be done. This method will require you to undergo general anesthesia and an incision will be made in the skin so you may be more prone to scars. If a birthmark is particularly large, skin grafting may also be necessary.
- Creams – Another common treatment for removing birthmarks is corticosteroids. The medication can be taken orally or injected. While sometimes successful for certain types of birthmarks, it can take months of treatment before results can be seen and long-term steroid use is linked to a variety of medical disorders.
- Sclerosing Agents – These compounds are injected into the birthmark to irritate the blood vessels and cause them to shrink. This may make the birthmark less noticeable. This method may be most effective for newly developed birthmarks and smaller lesions on the skin.
Will there be pain?
Removing birthmarks via a laser is non-invasive, meaning the plastic surgeon will not be making an incision into your skin, so it is virtually painless. However, you may feel a slight tingling sensation from the powerful laser light hitting the skin. Your skin may also be slightly painful to the touch. If the patient is very squeamish about pain or is a young child, the doctor can administer an anesthetic.
Surgical removal of birthmarks could be more painful because the doctor must cut into your skin. Based on the size and scope of the procedure, there may be some amount of bleeding and pain.
Birthmark Removal Cost
The cost for these procedures will fluctuate greatly from region to region and will also depend on your particular condition.
Laser birthmark removal starts in the $150 per treatment to $400 per treatment range so it will vary with the number of required treatments. Patients need an average of roughly 4 treatments, making the grand total cost an average of about $1,400. Most laser treatments are done in a doctor’s surgical suite but the cost may increase if you are required to have it done in the outpatient department of a hospital. When surgery is used instead of a laser, it will be significantly more expensive, particularly if the severity of the birthmark requires a hospital stay. You will have expenses for the doctor, the facility, general anesthesia, and other related expenses. Using corticosteroids and sclerosing agents may be lower in cost and may be a good choice for certain types of birthmarks or lesions.
It is important to note that most insurance companies do not cover birthmark removal or most other types of “cosmetic” surgeries.
Recovery time, risks and complications
Non-invasive laser methods are a good choice because it is relatively risk-free. It is possible to have some redness, swelling or scarring, and occasionally an infection may occur. These side effects are not common. The heating of the blood vessels in laser birthmark removal will usually cause the treated area to turn purple. It may take several days to several weeks for the purple color to disappear and, especially during this time, it is important to stay out of the sun and to use sunscreen.
The recovery time for surgical birthmark removal procedures may be significantly longer than with laser method and there may be more complications. The potential risks and complications are no different than with any surgery. There is a chance for infection each time the skin is cut. Some patients recover slowly from general anesthesia and, of course, the incisions must heal properly. Depending on the severity of the procedure, recovery could take weeks, although the recovery is generally fairly mild.
You may require several laser treatments before the birthmark dramatically lightens or loses color. However, it should eventually fade dramatically, by 70% to 90%. If the birthmark was light in color to begin with, it may even disappear completely. However, the results may not be permanent. The birthmark may recur because its coloration penetrates further into the skin than the laser can reach. If the color returns, further laser treatments can be performed. Also, if your skin scars easily, you may find that laser treatment will also cause some scarring. Discuss this with your doctor.
Surgically removing a birthmark may result in scarring, but a competent plastic surgeon should be able to minimize this and potentially make the scar less noticeable than the birthmark. Of course, much depends on the size of the birthmark and whether or not skin grafting is possible.
Removing a birthmark can be beneficial to your health and self-esteem. It is possible for some birthmarks to cause health risks, so speak to your doctor before you decide upon the best treatment for your condition.