Skin nontumor



Resident / Fellow Advisory Board: Caroline I.M. Underwood, M.D.
Syeda Qasim, M.D.
Shyam Raghavan, M.D.

Last author update: 8 July 2022
Last staff update: 23 January 2023

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PubMed Search: Lipodermatosclerosis

Syeda Qasim, M.D.
Shyam Raghavan, M.D.
Page views in 2022: 2,184
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Cite this page: Qasim S, Raghavan S. Lipodermatosclerosis. website. Accessed October 2nd, 2023.
Definition / general
  • Lipodermatosclerosis (hypodermitis sclerodermiformis and sclerosing panniculitis) presents as a chronic fibrosing disease commonly associated with venous insufficiency, arterial ischemia or thrombophlebitis
    • It is known to affect the subcutis of the lower extremities, commonly in obese, white women, older than 60
  • Hypodermitis sclerodermiformis was described in 1955 by Huriez et al. as a scleroderma-like hardening of the legs thought to result from infection of venous ulcers
    • In 1980, Burnand et al. used the term venous lipodermatosclerosis, which was characterized by changes in the skin and subcutaneous changes commonly known as postphlebitic leg (Arch Dermatol 1982;118:312)
Essential features
  • Lipodermatosclerosis is a chronic inflammatory condition characterized by subcutaneous fibrosis and hardening of the skin on the lower extremities due to venous insufficiency
  • Lipodermatosclerosis is also known as venous stasis panniculitis or hypodermitis sclerodermaformis
  • Venous stasis panniculitis
  • Hypodermitis sclerodermiformis and sclerosing panniculitis
  • Chronic panniculitis with lipomembranous changes
ICD coding
  • ICD-10: I83.10 - varicose veins
  • Lower extremities
  • Pretibial or medial aspect of the leg
  • Result of venous insufficiency, triggered by:
  • Resulting venous hypertension leads to an increase of leukocytes in the veins, which migrate to surrounding tissue
  • Leukocytes are activated, releasing proinflammatory cells and cytokines, inducing a chronic inflammatory state
  • Increased collagen production leads to the fibrosis of subcutaneous fat
  • Vascular damage, venous incompetence / hypertension and to a lesser extent, arterial ischemia
  • Abnormal fibrinolytic activity
  • Histologically shows an increase in dermal fibroblast proliferation and procollagen gene expression, suggesting involvement of these factors
  • Reference: Dermatol Ther 2010;23:375
Clinical features
  • Acute phase
    • Similar to cellulitis, with induration, erythema, pain, itching and swelling
  • Chronic phase
    • Subcutaneous fibrosis, resulting in narrowing of the distal lower limb, causing the leg to have the classical upside down champagne bottle appearance; hard, wood-like appearance, which becomes circumferential in well developed lesions (Semin Cutan Med Surg 2013;32:169)
    • Overlying ulceration or crusting
    • Hyperpigmentation of the skin from hemosiderin deposition, varicose veins, venous eczema
  • Biopsy
Case reports
  • Lifestyle: weight reduction, physical activity
  • Preventive measures: compression therapy and elevation
  • Medical treatment: stanozolol, pentoxifylline, hydroxychloroquine (Am Fam Physician 2019;100:298)
  • Ultrasound therapy
  • Ultraviolet radiation (UVA1)
  • Surgical treatment
Clinical images

Contributed by Merrick Kozak, M.D.
Bilateral lower extremities

Bilateral lower extremities

Microscopic (histologic) description
  • Lobular and septal involvement of the subcutaneous tissue, fat necrosis, macropseudocyst and micropseudocyst formation and calcification of adipocytes
  • Lipomembranes (crenated appearance, eosinophilic feathery anuclear lining of cystic adipocytes) classic but not definitive for the diagnosis
  • Pseudoxanthoma elasticum-like septal elastosis with calcification is a consistent finding
  • Reference: Int J Dermatol 2016;55:303
Microscopic (histologic) images

Contributed by Shyam Raghavan, M.D.
Pseudocyst formation Pseudocyst formation

Pseudocyst formation

Dermal sclerosis

Dermal sclerosis

Sample pathology report
  • Skin, left leg, biopsy:
    • Lipodermatosclerosis
Differential diagnosis
  • Erythema nodosum:
    • Septal panniculitis with a mixed cellular infiltrate of lymphocytes, histiocytes, giant cells and occasional eosinophils, and a characteristic absence of vasculitis
  • Morphea (localized scleroderma):
    • Atrophic epidermis
    • Thickened, hyalinized collagen, with possible loss of appendageal structures
    • Inflammatory cell infiltrate (lymphocytes with or without plasma cells)
  • Necrobiosis lipoidica:
    • Layered inflammatory process and alternating zones of necrobiosis involving the full thickness of the dermis (stacked lasagne type appearance)
    • Histiocytic infiltrate with multinucleated giant cells surrounds these areas and accompanying inflammatory infiltrate is predominantly lymphocytic with plasma cells and occasional eosinophils
  • Cellulitis:
    • Neutrophil predominant perivascular inflammation
Board review style question #1

Which of the following is a microscopic feature of lipodermatosclerosis?

  1. Granuloma formation
  2. Neutrophil infiltration
  3. Predominant histiocytic infiltrate
  4. Pseudocyst formation
Board review style answer #1
D. Pseudocyst formation. The biopsy shows classical findings of lipodermatosclerosis, including fat necrosis, pseudocyst formation, calcification of adipocytes and the presence of lipomembranes (eosinophilic feathery anuclear lining of cystic adipocytes) are diagnostic; however, neutrophil infiltration, predominant histiocytic infiltrate and granuloma formation are not historically associated with lipodermatosclerosis.

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Reference: Lipodermatosclerosis
Board review style question #2
Which of the following is the underlying major pathophysiology for lipodermatosclerosis?

  1. Allergic reaction
  2. Bacterial infection
  3. Chronic venous stasis
  4. Repeated microtrauma
Board review style answer #2
C. Chronic venous stasis. Lipodermatosclerosis is an inflammatory skin condition resulting from underlying venous insufficiency, which is caused by incompetent venous valves, venous outflow obstruction or dysfunction of the calf muscle pump.

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Reference: Lipodermatosclerosis
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