Treatment of Port-wine Mark in Sturge-Weber Syndrome Using Topical Timolol


Primary Objective: • To assess the possible utility of topical timolol in the management of port-wine mark (PWM) in Sturge-Weber syndrome in children.

Study Type

  • Study Type: Interventional
  • Study Design
    • Allocation: Randomized
    • Intervention Model: Parallel Assignment
    • Primary Purpose: Treatment
    • Masking: Single (Care Provider)
  • Study Primary Completion Date: January 2019

Detailed Description

Port-wine mark (PWM) represents a congenital capillary malformation,characterized by dilation and malformation of dermal capillaries that lack endothelial proliferation. It is frequently seen in the facial distribution of the trigeminal nerve. PWM persists throughout life and involves ~0.3% of the population. Although PWMs are found in other circumstances, ~ 3% of patients with facial PWM are also afflicted with Sturge-Weber syndrome. PWMs are cosmetic entities that often have serious social consequences, producing psychological trauma to both children and their parents. PWM does not involute with time, and, if left untreated, can develop deep purple coloration, tissue hypertrophy, and nodularity. Laser therapy, which selectively destroys specific targets within the skin, is currently the most commonly used approach for treating PWM, although complete blanching of the PWM after laser is rarely achieved for most patients, and only 10-45% of patients with Sturge-Weber have shown satisfactory outcomes. Complications of pulsed dye laser treatment for PWM include pyogenic granuloma, scabbing, cutaneous scarring, and permanent hypo/hyperpigmentation. Laser treatment is relatively contraindicated in children with darker skin coloration due to the resulting hypopigmentation which may be equally unsightly. Laser treatment causes substantial discomfort and pain to patients, and often requires general anesthesia in children. This is particularly true since earlier treatment in infancy is desirable and yields increased successful resolution of the PWM. The hypertrophic PWM in later years is resistant to any treatment. Recently, propranolol was reported to successfully treat capillary hemangioma in infants.13 While the mechanism by which beta blockade improves hemangioma is unclear, ß2-mediated vasoconstrictive effects and the ensuing apoptosis of capillary endothelial cells may contribute to the positive therapeutic results. Oral application of propranolol can cause severe systemic complications, including bronchospasm, vasospasm, hypoglycemia, hypotension, severe bradycardia, heart block, and congestive heart failure. Topical timolol solution, a β-blocker, has shown a similar ability to reduce capillary hemangioma of eyelids with little or no systemic effects in a small pilot study. Similar to capillary hemangioma, which is a proliferative lesion characterized by increased endothelial cell turnover, PWM is a capillary malformation with abnormal endothelial cells and large surface area of dilated capillaries. Thus, both capillary hemangioma and PWM share the similar characteristic of abnormal capillary endothelial cells. This pilot study is designed to explore the potential role of topical timolol in the management of PWM. As PWM is so frequently associated with Sturge-Weber syndrome, a disorder in which approximately 50% of patients will develop glaucoma, this study will be conducted in an ophthalmology setting. This study will consist of two arms. One group will receive timolol and the second group a placebo preservative free artificial tear gel. The groups will be divided with a ratio of 1:1 and the Timolol group will be matched with the placebo group by PWM location, age and race. Both medications are to be applied and rubbed in by fingertip to the treatment site twice a day for 6 months by subject's parents/guardian. (Treatment site: 1×1 cm at inferior edge of facial PWM) Follow-up schedule: 1 week after treatment initiation and then every 2 months for a period of six months.


  • Drug: Timolol
    • 0.5% timolol maleate ophthalmic gel-forming solution applied once
  • Drug: Preservative free artificial tear gel.
    • Preservative free artificial tear gel applied topically twice a day.

Arms, Groups and Cohorts

  • Experimental: Timolol
    • Participants in this group will receive topical timolol
  • Placebo Comparator: Placebo
    • Participants in this group will receive Preservative free artificial tear gel.

Clinical Trial Outcome Measures

Primary Measures

  • Appearance of Port-wine Mark at treatment site
    • Time Frame: 12 months
    • Changes of color and size of PWM at treatment site will determine efficacy of the topical timolol.

Participating in This Clinical Trial

Inclusion Criteria

  • Age from 2 years to 10 years – Port-Wine Mark – English fluent and literate substitute decision maker – Substitute decision maker vision sufficient to read informed consent document Exclusion criteria:

  • Active ocular infection (conjunctivitis, keratitis,) – History of systemic conditions including hypo/hypertension, hypoglycemia, bradycardia, asthma or any contraindication to beta blocker use – Unable to comply with required follow-up – Substitute decision maker not English fluent or not literate – Substitute decision maker unable to read consent document – Patient already using systemic beta-blocker or beta-agonist (Patients already using topical beta-blocker for glaucoma will not be excluded from study).

Gender Eligibility: All

Minimum Age: 2 Years

Maximum Age: 10 Years

Are Healthy Volunteers Accepted: No

Investigator Details

  • Lead Sponsor
    • Wills Eye
  • Collaborator
    • University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey
  • Provider of Information About this Clinical Study
    • Principal Investigator: Dr. Alex V. Levin, MD, MHSc, Chief, Pediatric Ophthalmology and Ocular Genetics – Wills Eye
  • Overall Official(s)
    • Alex V Levin, MD, MHSc, Principal Investigator, Wills Eye Institute


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