Refractory hailey-hailey disease successfully treated with sandpaper dermabrasion

Keith G. LeBlanc, Joshua B. Wharton, Daniel J. Sheehan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


A 53-year-old woman presented with a 20-year history of pruritic dermatitis on the groin, axillae, inframammary folds, posterior aspect of the neck, and popliteal fossae. She was referred to our clinic by an outside facility after results from a punch biopsy diagnosed Hailey-Hailey disease (HHD). The patient had previously attempted treatment with many traditional noninvasive options with no success. Topical treatment modalities included corticosteroids, immunomodulators, antifungals, retinoids, and antibiotic preparations. Intralesional corticosteroids, as well as botulinum toxin and carbon dioxide laser, were also unsuccessful. Failed systemic treatment modalities included antibiotics, antihistamines, prednisone, azathioprine, mycophenolate mofetil, acitretin, isotretinoin, adalimumab, and etanercept. Of note, cyclosporine was successful in clearing the cutaneous involvement in our patient, but elevation of creatinine and exacerbated hypertension precluded continued use. The decision was made to treat the patient by dermabrasion with sandpaper. The patient was prepped in a sterile fashion, and a field block with 1% lidocaine with epinephrine was performed. This was followed by abrasion down to the superficial dermis with 3M Sandblaster fine sandpaper (3M, St. Paul, MN) and hyfrecation between rounds of dermabrasion. The treated areas were then covered with petrolatum and sterile gauze, and antibiotics and pain medication were prescribed. This treatment was initially performed on the patient’s posterior aspect of the neck and later to the bilateral popliteal fossae and axillae. Three months post-treatment, desirable functional and cosmetic results of the treated areas had been achieved (Figure 1 and Figure 2). While no recurrence of clinically active HHD has been seen in the dermabraded areas of the neck and popliteal fossae, the patient continues to have active disease in the axillae despite sandpaper dermabrasion. To quantify our results, we performed two biopsies in the dermabraded sites of the popliteal fossae as healing occurred: a shave biopsy from an obviously active area, and a punch biopsy from a peripheral inactive border. The biopsy from the active area showed diffuse epidermal acantholysis similar to that seen in untreated HHD, while the healing periphery showed only scattered acantholytic areas and a sparse perivascular infiltrate—a marked improvement from the untreated areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)263-264
Number of pages2
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2011

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology and Allergy
  • Dermatology


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