Vitiligo (cont.)

Surgical therapies

All surgical therapies must be considered only after proper medical therapy has failed. Surgical techniques are time-consuming and expensive and usually not paid for by insurance carriers. They are appropriate only for carefully selected patients who have vitiligo that has been stable for at least 3 years:

  • Autologous skin grafts. The doctor removes skin from one area of your body and attaches it to another area. This type of skin grafting is sometimes used for patients with small patches of vitiligo. The doctor removes sections of the normal, pigmented skin (donor sites) and places them on the depigmented areas (recipient sites). There are several possible complications of autologous skin grafting. Infections may occur at the donor or recipient sites. The recipient and donor sites may develop scarring, a cobblestone appearance, or a spotty pigmentation, or may fail to repigment at all. Treatment with grafting takes time and is costly, and many people find it neither acceptable nor affordable.
  • Skin grafts using blisters. In this procedure, the doctor creates blisters on your pigmented skin by using heat, suction, or freezing cold. The tops of the blisters are then cut out and transplanted to a depigmented skin area. The risks of blister grafting include scarring and lack of repigmentation. However, there is less risk of scarring with this procedure than with other types of grafting.
  • Micropigmentation (tattooing). This procedure involves implanting pigment into the skin with a special surgical instrument. It works best for the lip area, particularly in people with dark skin. However, it is difficult for the doctor to match perfectly the color of the skin of the surrounding area.The tattooed area will not change in color when exposed to sun, although the surrounding normal skin will. So even if the tattooed area matches the surrounding skin perfectly at first, it may not later on. Tattooing tends to fade over time. In addition, tattooing of the lips may lead to episodes of blister outbreaks caused by the herpes simplex virus.
  • Autologous melanocyte transplants. In this procedure, the doctor takes a sample of your normal pigmented skin and places it in a laboratory dish containing a special cell-culture solution to grow melanocytes. When the melanocytes in the culture solution have multiplied, the doctor transplants them to your depigmented skin patches. This procedure is currently experimental and is impractical for the routine care of people with vitiligo. It is also very expensive, and its side effects are not known.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 3/14/2014

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Vitiligo - Effective Treatments Question: What kinds of treatments have been effective for your vitiligo?
Vitiligo - Diagnosis Question: How was your vitiligo diagnosed?
Vitiligo - Depigmented Patches Question: Describe your type of vitiligo, its location on your body, and the progression of your depigmented patches.
Vitiligo - Coping Question: What coping methods have helped you in dealing with the emotional and psychological issues associated with vitiligo?
Vitiligo - Personal Experience Question: With your first symptoms, did you suspect vitiligo or think it might be something else? Please describe your experience.

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