Dissecting Cellulitis of the Scalp

Maggie Monroe; Charles Crutchfield, III


Dermatology Nursing. 2005;17(3):208 

Flesh colored, painful nodular plaques on the vertex of the scalp which frequently discharge a seropurulent material. Patient reports a loss of hair in the affected area and states the condition began several years ago.

Erythematous papules or nodules which over time evolve into plaques with underlying intercommunicating sinuses.

Most often occurs on the scalp vertex or occiput.

Perifollicular, comedonal papules or nodules which frequently form intercommunicating sinuses and coalesce into a plaque. This plaque is often firm, painful, and produces seropurulent drainage. When cultured, Staphylococcus aureus and Staphylococcus albus are identified. The disease most frequently affects young black men and as it progresses, scarring and alopecia develop.

Firm, painful nodulo-plaques which discharge a seropurulent material (see Figure 1).

Erythematous papules or nodules which over time evolve into plaques with underlying intercommunicating sinuses.

Treatment is difficult and is usually not curative. Oral antibiotics with anti-inflammatory properties may be helpful, especially when used in conjunction with topical and intralesional steroids. Isotretinoin may also prove successful, although remission is variable. If medical treatments fail, surgical approaches may be used, but are most effective if performed on early, small lesions. In these cases, the lesions are incised and drained.

The normal progression of the disease leads to scarring, therefore alopecia and seropurulent drainage may last indefinitely.

It is crucial to stress to the patient the importance of treating early and aggressively for best results. Compliance with taking prescribed oral medications and/or returning to the clinic on a set schedule for intralesional injections is imperative.

Instruct patient on the proper use of prescribed medications and review any possible side effects. Reiterate the importance of early and aggressive treatment to achieve the best outcome.


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