What are the histopathologic features of lichen planus?

Updated: Feb 24, 2020
  • Author: Tsu-Yi Chuang, MD, MPH, FAAD; Chief Editor: William D James, MD  more...
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The histopathologic features distinguish lichen planus based on the presence of irregular acanthosis and colloid bodies in the epidermis with destruction of the basal layer. The upper dermis has a bandlike ("lichenoid") infiltrate of lymphocytes and histiocytes.

The inflammatory reaction pattern is characteristic. The epidermis is hyperkeratotic with irregular acanthosis and focal thickening in the granular layer. Degenerative keratinocytes, known as colloid or Civatte bodies, are found in the lower epidermis. In addition to apoptotic keratinocytes, colloid bodies are composed of globular deposits of IgM (occasionally immunoglobulin G [IgG] or immunoglobulin A [IgA]) and complement. Linear or shaggy deposits of fibrin and fibrinogen are noted in the basement membrane zone.

The upper dermis has a bandlike infiltrate of lymphocytic (primarily helper T) and histiocytic cells with many Langerhans cells. The infiltrate is very close to the epidermis and often disrupts the dermal-epidermal junction.

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