Sturge?Weber syndrome (SWS) is a rare congenital disorder that belongs to the group of neuroectodermal development anomalies called ?phakomatoses?.
It is characterized by the association of variable clinical manifestations that could be ascribed to many vascular malformations. Its peculiarity is the typical triad composed of: (a) the facial angioma, following the path of the ophthalmic and maxillary branches of the trigeminal nerve; (b) the leptomeningeal angioma, ipsilateral to the cutaneous angioma, usually in the parieto-occipital region; and (c) the choroidal angioma.

From an epidemiological point of view, SWS occurs in all races, and there is no sexual predilection.1 At present, the etiology of SWS is unknown, although many theories have been raised. The most widely-accepted theory regards it as a genetic disease with incomplete penetrance, because usually no member of the patient?s family presents the typical complete set of symptoms of this syndrome.2 As a general rule, SWS is diagnosed at birth or in infancy only on the basis of its medical signs.

The development of secondary diseases and complications occurs during the whole course of life (Table 1). The symptoms reported in the literature do not always coexist in SWS.


Table 1.   Clinical manifestations in SWS patients

Clinical manifestations


  1. SWS, Sturge?Weber syndrome.

Epileptic fits


Psychomotor retardation






Choroidal hemangioma






Bilateral cerebral involvement


SWS without facial nevus


Many authors have classified syndromes according to the different associations of symptoms described in the literature: (a) syndromes with at least three signs (complete forms), characterized by cutaneous, ocular, and neurological manifestations; and (b) syndromes with at least two signs (incomplete forms), characterized by either cutaneous and ocular manifestations or neurological and cutaneous manifestations. In SWS, the cutaneous lesion is often referred to as ?port?wine stain? or ?nevus flammeus?.

It is a flat and usually unilateral angioma affecting 96% of patients, and it is visible at birth. The nevus is composed of one or more stains with an irregular and uneven shape, distinct borders, and variable color. Sometimes it can evolve into a nodular lesion. It usually occurs in the skin, innervated by the first or second branch of the trigeminal nerve. There are several neurological manifestations, and they both depend on the location of the leptomeningeal angioma, which commonly occurs in the occipital and parietal areas, and on the secondary effects of the angioma.

They include seizures, which can be drug-resistant; focal deficiencies, such as hemiparesis and hemianopsia, which are often transitory and defined as ?stroke-like episodes?; headache; and developmental disorders, such as psychomotor and learning disorders and mental retardation.

Thirty percent of patients with SWS display increased intraocular pressure and approximately one-third of these patients develop glaucoma, while two-thirds have hydrophthalmos. Other manifestations include conjunctival, episcleral, and choroidal hemangiomas.1 In general, the existing oral lesions are located ipsilaterally to the skin lesion, and bilaterally when the skin lesions are also bilateral. The most affected areas are the lips and cheeks, which show a flat bluish-red angioma that lightens to pressure.

The lips might be hypertrophic and only affected on one side. When the gums are affected, they can show alterations ranging from mild hypertrophy to the formation of abnormal masses that make chewing impossible.

These patients present with large plaque accumulations and periodontal pseudopockets. Hyperplastic lesions affect the marginal and attached gingiva, causing massive spontaneous bleeding because of the intense neoangiogenesis typical of patients with SWS or as a consequence of minor traumas and superficial ulcers. If hyperplasia is not treated, it could problems in patients? relationships because of aesthetic and phonetic reasons, and it can also interfere with tooth eruption. Gingival hypertrophy can be ascribed to the gingival location of the hemangioma; however, it could also be related to the anticonvulsant therapy with diphenylhydantoin or phenobarbital.

The tongue is less frequently affected and might have hemihypertrophy and teleangectasias. Secondary manifestations might be periodontal abscesses and bleeding, both of inflammatory and traumatic origin in the case of marked hypertrophy.

Systemic manifestations include angiomatous malformations of visceral, focal, or diffuse nature, which have been described in the thyroid, lungs, intestines, kidneys, spleen, pancreas, and ovaries; atrophy of branches on the contralateral side of the facial nevus and hemisensory phenomena, as well as clinical pictures of diplegia?paraplegia?quadriplegia; extracranial angiomas and hyperplastic vegetations of soft tissues; aortic contraction; macrocephaly; and scoliosis.

The aim of this work is to discuss the treatment of 11 cases of generalized gingival hyperplasia in SWS, a pathology exposing patients to bleeding diathesis, with a strong tendency to relapse in surgically-treated regions due to the angiomatous nature of this syndrome. The present study deals with the surgical treatment of generalized gingival hyperplasia of patients with SWS, comparing traditional surgery, CO2, and neodymium-doped yttrium aluminium garnet (Nd:Yag) laser treatment. We assess the treatment results and follow ups, and investigate the best technique to: (a) control intraoperative surgical timing; (b) control postoperative pain after the excision of the hypertrophic gingival tissue; (c) reduce the frequency of relapse in the treated area; and (d) ensure a rapid and compliant postoperative course.

Materials and methods

We report a retrospective study of 11 cases of patients affected SWS, with generalized gingival hyperplasia and angiomatous lesions of the oral cavity, treated with different surgical procedures. Informed consent was obtained by all the patients included in this study. This study was carried out in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki. Upon physical examination, and with medical history taken into consideration, eight patients presented with clinical features of the complete form of SWS, while the remaining three patients presented with several clinical manifestations of the incomplete form. Specifically, two patients were affected by cutaneous and ocular manifestations, while only one patient had cutaneous and neurological manifestations (Table 2).  

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