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Cryotherapy-induced milia en plaque: case report and literature review


Background: Cryotherapy-induced milia is a rarely described cutaneous reaction that may occur in patients who have received cryotherapy with liquid nitrogen. Cryotherapy-induced milia is characterized by 1-2 millimeter white dermal cysts that develop at the healed cryotherapy site. Milia en plaque, an erythematous plaque containing numerous milia, has not previously been described following treatment of a skin lesion with liquid nitrogen cryotherapy.

Purpose:  We describe a man who developed cryotherapy-induced milia en plaque after receiving cryotherapy to his dorsal hand for the treatment of an actinic keratosis. We also summarize the potential complications of cryotherapy, the differential diagnosis of milia en plaque, and therapeutic interventions for this lesion.

Materials and methods:  The features of a man with cryotherapy-induced milia en plaque are presented. Using PubMed, the following terms were searched and relevant citations assessed: cryosurgery, cryotherapy, hypothermia, milia, milia en plaque, and Wolf's isotopic response. In addition, the literature on cryotherapy-induced milia and cryotherapy-induced milia en plaque is reviewed.

Results:  Our patient developed cryotherapy-induced milia en plaque shortly after his cryotherapy site had healed. Some of the asymptomatic cystic dermal lesions had spontaneously resolved when a lesional biopsy was performed to confirm the diagnosis. The diagnosis, natural course, and potential treatments were discussed with the patient. Subsequent management was to observe the area; at follow-up examination, the remainder of the milia had also spontaneously resolved.

Conclusion:  Cryotherapy-induced milia is a benign condition characterized by the development of small white dermal cystic lesions that develop at a healed liquid nitrogen cryotherapy site. The lesions may appear individually or as milia en plaque. While the mechanism of pathogenesis is unknown, we postulate that the condition is an example of Wolf's isotopic response, in which a new, unrelated skin disease develops at the site of a previously healed dermatosis - in this circumstance, following cryotherapy which created an immune compromised zone. The diagnosis of milia en plaque can usually be established by clinical presentation; if necessary, a biopsy can be performed to provide pathologic confirmation of the suspected diagnosis. Treatment options include manual extraction, topical retinoids, or observation. Similar to our patient, the milia may resolve spontaneously.

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