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Treatment of vulvar and vaginal dysplasia: plasma energy ablation versus carbon dioxide laser ablation


Objective Plasma energy ablation vaporizes tissues similar to carbon dioxide laser ablation, but is not hindered by the unique hazards and regulation of laser technology. We aimed to evaluate the complication rate and effectiveness of plasma versus laser ablation in the treatment of vulvovaginal high-grade squamous intra-epithelial lesions (HSIL).

Methods We performed a retrospective cohort study of women treated with plasma or carbon dioxide laser ablation for histologically proven HSIL of the vulva or vagina from January 2014 to October 2019 at a single institution. Demographic factors, surgical characteristics, and complications were compared by ablation type using Fisher’s exact tests. Recurrence-free survival was evaluated by ablation type using Kaplan–Meier curves, weighted log-rank tests, and Cox proportional hazards ratio estimates.

Results Forty-two women were included; 50% underwent plasma and 50% underwent carbon dioxide laser ablation. Demographic factors were similar between the groups. 50% (n=21) were immunosuppressed, 45.2% (n=19) had prior vulvovaginal HSIL treatment, and 35.7% (n=15) were current smokers. Most women (n=25, 59.5%) were treated for vulvar HSIL, 38.1% (n=16) for vaginal HSIL. Complication rates did not differ by treatment: 9.5% (n=2) for laser ablation versus 4.8% (n=1) for plasma ablation (p=1.0). Over a median follow-up time of 29.3 months (IQR 11.0–45.0 months), recurrence rates were similar: 28.6% in the laser ablation group versus 33.3% in the plasma ablation group (weighted log rank p=0.43; 24-month HR 0.54, 95% CI 0.15 to 2.01).

Conclusion Plasma energy ablation of vulvovaginal HSIL has similar complication rates and recurrence risk to carbon dioxide laser ablation. This technique could be considered as an alternative treatment modality for vulvovaginal HSIL and warrants further investigation.

  • vulvar and vaginal cancer
  • vulvar diseases
  • vulvar neoplasms
  • genital neoplasms
  • female
  • gynecologic surgical procedures

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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