Skip to main content
Open Access Publications from the University of California

Dermatology Online Journal

Dermatology Online Journal bannerUC Davis

Dissecting cellulitis (Perifolliculitis Capitis Abscedens et Suffodiens): a comprehensive review focusing on new treatments and findings of the last decade with commentary comparing the therapies and causes of dissecting cellulitis to hidradenitis suppura


Dissecting cellulitis (DC) also referred to as to as perifolliculitis capitis abscedens et suffodiens (Hoffman) manifests with perifollicular pustules, nodules, abscesses and sinuses that evolve into scarring alopecia. In the U.S., it predominantly occurs in African American men between 20-40 years of age.  DC also occurs in other races and women more rarely.  DC has been reported worldwide.  Older therapies reported effective include: low dose oral zinc, isotretinoin, minocycline, sulfa drugs, tetracycline, prednisone, intralesional triamcinolone, incision and drainage, dapsone, antiandrogens (in women), topical clindamycin, topical isotretinoin, X-ray epilation and ablation, ablative C02 lasers, hair removal lasers (800nm and 694nm), and surgical excision.  Newer treatments reported include tumor necrosis factor blockers (TNFB), quinolones, macrolide antibiotics, rifampin, alitretinoin, metronidazole, and high dose zinc sulphate (135-220 mg TID).  Isotretinoin seems to provide the best chance at remission, but the number of reports is small, dosing schedules variable, and the long term follow up beyond a year is negligible; treatment failures have been reported.  TNFB can succeed when isotretinoin fails, either as monotherapy, or as a bridge to aggressive surgical treatment, but long term data is lacking.  Non-medical therapies noted in the last decade include: the 1064 nm laser, ALA-PDT, and modern external beam radiation therapy.  Studies that span more than 1 year are lacking. Newer pathologic hair findings include: pigmented casts, black dots, and "3D" yellow dots.  Newer associations include: keratitis-ichthyosis-deafness syndrome, Crohn disease and pyoderma gangrenosum.  Older associations include arthritis and keratitis.  DC is likely a reaction pattern, as is shown by its varied therapeutic successes and failures.  The etiology of DC remains enigmatic and DC is distinct from hidradenitis suppurativa, which is shown by their varied responses to therapies and their histologic differences. Like HS, DC likely involves both follicular dysfunction and an aberrant cutaneous immune response to commensal bacteria, such as coagulase negative staphylococci. The incidence of DC is likely under-reported. The literature suggests that now most cases of DC can be treated effectively.  However, the lack of clinical studies regarding DC prevents full understanding of the disease and limits the ability to define a consensus treatment algorithm.

Main Content
For improved accessibility of PDF content, download the file to your device.
Current View