Pyoderma Gangrenosum after Breast Surgery: Diagnostic Pearls and Treatment Recommendations Based on a Systematic Literature Review

Sami H. Tuffaha, Karim A. Sarhane, Gerhard S. Mundinger, Justin M. Broyles, Sashank K. Reddy, Saïd C. Azoury, Stella Seal, Damon S. Cooney, Steven C. Bonawitz

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Background Pyoderma gangrenosum (PG) is a rare cutaneous disorder that poses a diagnostic challenge in the postoperative period. A systematic literature review was performed to determine distinguishing characteristics of PG in the setting of breast surgery that can facilitate timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Methods PubMed, EMBASE, Scopus, and Web of Science databases were systematically searched for articles with cases of PG occurring after breast surgery. Forty-three relevant articles, including 49 case reports, were identified. Results PG manifested bilaterally in 30 of 34 cases (88%) in which bilateral surgery was performed. Abdominal wounds were present in 6 of 7 cases in which an abdominal donor site was used for breast reconstruction. Nipples were spared from wound involvement in 33 of 37 cases (89%) in which nipples were present after surgery. Presence of fever was noted in 27 cases (55%) and leukocytosis in 21 cases (43%). A total of 33 patients (67%) underwent wound debridement. Successful medical treatment most commonly involved steroids (41 cases, 84%) and cyclosporine (10 cases, 20%). Conclusions Pertinent clinical features were identified that may aid in timely diagnosis and treatment of PG after breast surgery. Appearance of discrete wounds involving multiple surgical sites that surround but spare the nipples should raise suspicion for PG rather than infection or ischemia, even with concomitant fever and leukocytosis. Wound debridement should be minimized and skin grafting considered only after medical therapy is initiated. Cognizance of these features may enable prompt therapeutic intervention that minimizes morbidity and improves outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)e39-e44
JournalAnnals of plastic surgery
Issue number2
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • breast
  • breast surgery
  • nipple
  • pyoderma gangrenosum
  • surgery
  • wound

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery


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