Pain is a common side-effect of dermatological laser procedures. Non-invasive anaesthetic drugs and anaesthetic procedures can be used to provide pain relief and increase patient satisfaction and treatment efficacy. However, it remains unclear which method provides the best pain relief. The objective of this systematic review was therefore to assess the efficacy and safety of non-invasive anaesthetic methods during dermatological laser procedures. A systematic literature search was conducted. Randomized and non-randomized controlled clinical trials (RCTs and CCTs) were included. Two authors independently assessed study eligibility, extracted data and assessed the risk of bias. The quality of evidence was rated using Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development and Evaluation (GRADE). Twenty RCTs and 12 CCTs were included, involving nine different laser indications: hair removal (n = 9), resurfacing/rejuvenation (n = 5), port wine stains (n = 8), leg telangiectasia (n = 3), facial telangiectasia (n = 2), tattoo removal (n = 2), naevus of Ota (n = 1), solar lentigines (n = 1) and HPV lesions (n = 1). The non-invasive anaesthetic methods (i.e. topical anaesthetic drugs, skin cooling, and pneumatic skin flattening [PSF]), types of lasers, laser settings, application time, and types of pain scales varied widely among the included studies. All of the studies had an unclear or high risk of bias, and the overall quality of evidence was rated as low. In general, active non-invasive anaesthetic methods seemed to provide favourable results compared to placebo or no anaesthesia, and topical anaesthetic drugs and PSF seemed to result in a better pain reduction than skin cooling. However, the current evidence is insufficient to provide recommendations for daily clinical practice. There is a need for more high-quality (head-to-head) RCTs. Future studies should also evaluate sex differences in pain perception, have uniformity with regard to validated pain measurement scales and address clinically significant differences in pain reduction besides statistically significant differences. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology

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Greveling, K, Prens, E.P, Liu, L, & van Doorn, M.B.A. (2017). Non-invasive anaesthetic methods for dermatological laser procedures: A systematic review. Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology (Vol. 31, pp. 1096–1110). doi:10.1111/jdv.14130