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Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology
Volume 42, n° 5P1
pages 760-769 (mai 2000)
Doi : 10.1067/mjd.2000.103813
accepted : 22 October 1999
Depigmentation therapy in vitiligo universalis with topical 4-methoxyphenol and the Q-switched ruby laser

M.D. Njoo, MDa, R.M. Vodegel, MDb, W. Westerhof, MD, PhDa,c
Amsterdam and Groningen, The Netherlands 
From Netherlands Institute for Pigmentary Disorders, Amsterdama; the Department of Dermatology, Academic Hospital Groningen, University of Groningenb; and the Department of Dermatology, Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam.c 


Background: Monobenzylether of hydroquinone is used worldwide to remove residual pigment in patients with vitiligo universalis. Because of the side effects reported with this drug, the use of monobenzylether of hydroquinone has been restricted in The Netherlands. Objective: Our purpose was to evaluate the long-term effectiveness and safety of a combination therapy consisting of topical 4-methoxyphenol (4-MP) cream and Q-switched ruby (QSR) laser in 16 patients with vitiligo universalis. Methods: In a retrospective study, patient record forms were evaluated. Data were collected regarding history as well as physical and histologic examination. The patients came to the institute for a follow-up visit after a treatment-free period of 2 to 36 months. Results: Thirteen patients received both therapies. Three patients only used the cream. None of the areas was treated by the cream and QSR laser at the same time. In 11 of the 16 patients (69%; 95% confidence interval [CI], 41%-89%) total depigmentation was achieved using the 4-MP cream. Onset of depigmentation was between 4 and 12 months. Four of the 5 patients who did not respond to the 4-MP cream had successful depigmentation with the QSR laser. Mild burning or itching was reported with the cream in 4 cases (25%). Of the 11 patients who responded to the 4-MP cream, 4 had recurrence of pigmentation (relapse rate of 36%; 95% CI, 11%-69%) after a treatment-free period of 2 to 36 months. In 9 of the 13 patients (69%; 95% CI, 39%-91%) total depigmentation was achieved after QSR laser therapy. Onset of depigmentation was between 7 and 14 days after the treatment. Three of the 4 unresponsive patients showed total depigmentation after application of the 4-MP cream. No side effects were observed. Of the 9 patients who responded to QSR laser therapy, 4 had recurrence of pigmentation (relapse rate of 44%; 95% CI, 14%-79%) after a treatment-free period of 2 to 18 months. These patients had a negative Koebner phenomenon. Conclusion: Depigmentation therapy using a 4-MP cream and/or QSR laser therapy is an effective and safe method to remove disfiguring residual pigment in patients with vitiligo universalis. Patients should be warned that repigmentation may occur, even after total depigmentation has been achieved. (J Am Acad Dermatol 2000;42:760-9.)

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