Normal Subcutaneous Fat, Necrosis of Adipocytes and Classification of the Panniculitides

The panniculitides represent a group of heterogeneous inflammatory diseases that involve the subcutaneous fat. The specific diagnosis of these diseases requires histopathologic study because different panniculitides usually show the same clinical appearance, which consists of erythematous nodules on the lower extremities. However, the histopathologic study of panniculitis is difficult because of an inadequate clinicopathologic correlation and the changing evolutive nature of the lesions. In addition, large scalpel incisional biopsies are required. From histopathologic point of view, all panniculitides are somewhat mixed because the inflammatory infiltrate involves both the septa and lobules. However, nearly always the differential diagnosis between a mostly septal and a mostly lobular panniculitis is straightforward at scanning magnification on the basis of the structures more intensely involved by the inflammatory infiltrate. Mostly septal panniculitides with vasculitis are actually more vasculitis than panniculitis and include superficial thrombophlebitis and cutaneous polyarteritis nodosa. Mostly septal panniculitides with no vasculitis include erythema nodosum, necrobiosis lipoidica, deep morphea, subcutaneous granuloma annulare, rheumatoid nodule, and necrobiotic xanthogranuloma. Mostly lobular panniculitis with vasculitis is only represented by erythema induratum of Bazin. In contrast, mostly lobular panniculitides without vasculitis comprise a large series of disparate disorders, including sclerosing panniculitis, calciphylaxis, sclerema neonatorum, subcutaneous fat necrosis of the newborn, poststeroid panniculitis, lupus erythematosus profundus, pancreatic panniculitis, 1-antitrypsin deficiency panniculitis, subcutaneous Sweet syndrome, infective panniculitis, factitial panniculitis, lipodystrophy, traumatic panniculitis, subcutaneous sarcoidosis, and sclerosing postirradiation panniculitis. Finally, some cutaneous lymphomas may simulate panniculitis, both from clinical and histopathologic points of view and, for that reason, they will be included in this review, although they are not inflammatory processes, but authentic lymphocytic neoplasms involving subcutaneous tissue.

Semin Cutan Med Surg 26:66-70 © 2007 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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