Abstract: Localized CO2 laser treatment of a recalcitrant oral ulceration in pemphigus vulgaris

Pemphigus Vulgaris

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Nita Chainani-Wu, Vinitha Gopal-Murthy, Aadi Wu, M Peter Marinkovich

  • Private Practice in Oral Medicine, Mountain View, California, USA.
  • International Dentist Program, University of the Pacific, San Francisco, California, USA.
  • Living Wisdom School, Palo Alto, California, USA.
  • Department of Dermatology, Stanford University, Stanford, California, USA.


Introduction: Recalcitrant oral lesions of pemphigus vulgaris (PV), an autoimmune blistering disease, can result in significant discomfort, difficulty in eating, and maintaining oral hygiene. Increasing the dosage of systemic medications to control such localized lesions results in an increased risk of adverse effects.

Case presentation: We describe a male patient diagnosed at age 51 with PV by oral biopsy that included a direct immunofluorescence examination. After further baseline laboratory testing, he was started on prednisone and mycophenolate. These medications were slowly tapered with adjustments guided by clinical signs. Mycophenolate was replaced with intravenous immunoglobulin monthly infusions due to adverse effects about 2 years after initiation. During the 4.5-year follow-up period after diagnosis, his oral and skin lesions were well-controlled apart from minor transient flares. However, a painful ulcerated lesion on the facial gingiva between #11 and 12 was nonresponsive, even with the use of topical clobetasol in trays. A carbon dioxide (CO2 ) laser was used to vaporize the recalcitrant lesion under local anesthesia. The procedure resulted in complete healing of ulceration with no recurrence until the most recent examination, 2 years postlaser surgery.

Conclusion: Adjunctive procedures that can facilitate a decrease in the cumulative dosage of corticosteroids and immunosuppressants have great value in the management of PV. CO2 laser vaporization is safe, with minimal morbidity and no long-term side effects. It should be considered an adjunctive treatment option for the management of recalcitrant lesions in patients with oral PV.

Key points: Why is this case new information? To our knowledge, this is the second report on the use of a CO2 laser in the treatment of recalcitrant oral lesions of PV and the first report with a documented long-term resolution of the treated lesions. What are the keys to the successful management of this case? A localized recalcitrant lesion was treated with this approach. All other mucosal and cutaneous sites were well controlled on the patient’s systemic medication regimen. What are the primary limitations to success in this case? This approach is only relevant for the management of recalcitrant lesions in patients whose disease activity is otherwise well controlled. The availability of specialized equipment and trained clinicians is necessary.

Early diagnosis and treatment of oral conditions is critical to maintain your oral and general health.