ImportanceAlthough cutaneous warts are common lesions, full remission is not always achieved with conventional therapies. Laser modalities including carbon dioxide (CO2), erbium:yttrium-aluminum-garnet (Er:YAG), pulsed dye (PDL), and Nd:YAG have been investigated as alternative treatments for warts.
ObjectiveTo review the use and efficacy of lasers for treating nongenital cutaneous warts.
Evidence reviewPublished randomized clinical trials (RCTs), cohort studies, case series, and case reports involving laser treatment of nongenital warts were retrieved by searching PubMed with no date limits. Quality ratings of studies were based on a modified version of the Oxford Centre for Evidence-Based Medicine scheme for rating individual studies. A higher emphasis was placed on RCTs and prospective cohort studies with large sample sizes and detailed methodology.
FindingsThere were 35 studies published between 1989 and 2015 that comprised an aggregate of 2149 patients. Simple and recalcitrant nongenital warts treated with lasers show variable response rates (CO2 laser, 50%-100%; Er:YAG laser, 72%-100%; PDL, 47%-100%; and Nd:YAG laser, 46%-100%). Current RCTs suggest that PDL is equivalent to conventional therapies such as cryotherapy and cantharidin. Combination therapies with lasers and other agents including bleomycin, salicylic acid, and light-emitting diode have shown some success.
Conclusions and relevanceLasers can be an effective treatment option for both simple and recalcitrant warts. The lasers most studied for this purpose are CO2, PDL, and Nd:YAG, and of these, PDL has the fewest adverse effects. Currently, use of lasers for wart treatment is limited by lack of established treatment guidelines. Future studies are needed to compare laser modalities with each other and with nonlaser treatment options, and to establish optimal treatment protocols.