The practicalities of photodynamic therapy in acne vulgaris
A staple clinical skill in a dermatologist’s repertoire is the ability to treat acne vulgaris effectively. Light-based therapies such as photodynamic therapy (PDT) widen the therapeutic options available for acne. Numerous review articles have agreed on the answer to core questions such as: ‘Does PDT work?’ and ‘Which acne lesions respond best to PDT?’ They conclude that PDT is especially useful in inflammatory acne and may be superior to light therapy alone. This literature review seeks to offer guidance regarding treatment-specific queries about the photosensitizer, route of administration, treatment intervals, light sources and patient selection. Ovid Medline, PubMed and EMBASE database searches were executed between January 2007 and March 2008. Due to the scarcity of data, all five randomized trials, four of which were at least investigator blinded and controlled, 12 open clinical studies, two case reports and two abstracts published in English were considered. Four hundred and nineteen patients were recruited. As the quality of the data was suboptimal in a significant number of articles, the conclusions are drawn in very broad strokes: topical short-contact (90 min or less) 5-aminolaevulinic acid or methyl aminolaevulinate using a noncoherent light source at 2–4-week intervals for a total of two to four treatments produces the greatest clinical effect. Papulopustular acne is more responsive and all Fitzpatrick skin types are eligible. However, patients with skin types I–III have a reduced risk of postinflammatory hyperpigmentation seen in darker skin types. These treatment parameters demonstrate a good side-effect profile resulting in acne remission for at least 3 months to a year in a relatively cost-effective manner. Well-designed nonsplit-face randomized controlled trials would offer further guidance, especially for queries surrounding the light source and illumination schemes.