Case Reports

Evaluating the Clinical and Demographic Features of Extrafacial Granuloma Faciale

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Granuloma faciale (GF) is an uncommon cutaneous disease of uncertain etiology that predominantly affects the face. Extrafacial lesions are rare. The purpose of this study was to describe the clinical and demographic features of a series of patients with extrafacial manifestations of GF who were diagnosed and treated at a single center over more than 5 decades. We performed a retrospective medical record analysis for all patients diagnosed with extrafacial GF who were treated at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota) from 1959 through 2013. During the study period, extrafacial GF was diagnosed in 10 patients (6 men, 4 women), all of whom were white. The mean age was 58.7 years (range, 26–87 years). Seven patients presented with both facial and extrafacial lesions. Although extrafacial lesions are rare in GF, this condition should be included in the differential diagnosis of well-demarcated plaques and nodules found on the arms and legs.

Practice Points

  • Extrafacial lesions are rare in granuloma faciale (GF).
  • Extrafacial GF should be included in the differential diagnosis of well-demarcated plaques and nodules found on the trunk or extremities.
  • Diagnosis of extrafacial GF is based on the presence of distinct histologic features identical to GF.
  • Granuloma faciale is a chronic benign leukocytoclastic vasculitis that can be difficult to treat.



Granuloma faciale (GF) is a chronic benign leukocytoclastic vasculitis that can be difficult to treat. It is characterized by single or multiple, soft, well-circumscribed papules, plaques, or nodules ranging in color from red, violet, or yellow to brown that may darken with sun exposure.1 Lesions usually are smooth with follicular orifices that are accentuated, thus producing a peau d’orange appearance. Lesions generally are slow to develop and asymptomatic, though some patients report pruritus or burning.2,3 Diagnosis of GF is based on the presence of distinct histologic features. The epidermis usually is spared, with a prominent grenz zone of normal collagen separating the epidermis from a dense infiltrate of neutrophils, lymphocytes, and eosinophils. This mixed inflammatory infiltrate is seen mainly in the superficial dermis but occasionally spreads to the lower dermis and subcutaneous tissues.4

As the name implies, GF usually is confined to the face but occasionally involves extrafacial sites.5-15 The clinical characteristics of these rare extrafacial lesions are not well understood. The purpose of this study was to identify the clinical and demographic features of extrafacial GF in patients treated at Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota) during a 54-year period.


This study was approved by the Mayo institutional review board. We searched the Mayo Clinic Rochester dermatology database for all patients with a diagnosis of GF from 1959 through 2013. All histopathology slides were reviewed by a board-certified dermatologist (A.G.B.) and dermatopathologist (A.G.B.) before inclusion in this study. Histologic criteria for diagnosis of GF included the presence of a mixed inflammatory infiltrate of neutrophils, eosinophils, lymphocytes, and histiocytes in the superficial or deep dermis; a prominent grenz zone separating the uninvolved epidermis; and the presence of vascular damage, as seen by fibrin deposition in dermal blood vessels.

Medical records were reviewed for patient demographics and for history pertinent to the diagnosis of GF, including sites involved, appearance, histopathology reports, symptoms, treatments, and outcomes.

Literature Search Strategy
A computerized Ovid MEDLINE database search was undertaken to identify English-language articles concerning GF in humans using the search terms granuloma faciale with extrafacial or disseminated. To ensure that no articles were overlooked, we conducted another search for English-language articles in the Embase database (1946-2013) using the terms granuloma faciale and extrafacial or disseminated.

Statistical Analysis
Descriptive clinical and histopathologic data were summarized using means, medians, and ranges or proportions as appropriate; statistical analysis was performed using SAS software (JMP package).


Ninety-six patients with a diagnosis of GF were identified, and 12 (13%) had a diagnosis of extrafacial GF. Of them, 2 patients had a diagnosis of extrafacial GF supported only by histopathology slides without accompanying clinical records and therefore were excluded from the study. Thus, 10 cases of extrafacial GF were identified from our search and were included in the study group. Clinical data for these patients are summarized in Table 1. The mean age was 58.7 years (range, 26–87 years). Six (60%) patients were male, and all patients were white. Seven patients (70%) had facial GF in addition to extrafacial GF. Six patients reported no symptoms (60%), and 4 (40%) reported pruritus, discomfort, or both associated with their GF lesions.

Extrafacial GF was diagnosed in the following anatomic locations: scalp (n=3 [30%]), posterior auricular area (n=3 [30%]), mid upper back (n=1 [10%]), right shoulder (n=1 [10%]), both ears (n=1 [10%]), right elbow (n=1 [10%]), and left infra-auricular area (n=1 [10%]). Only 1 (10%) patient had multiple extrafacial sites identified.

The lesions were characterized clinically as violet, red, and yellow to brown smooth papules, plaques, and nodules (Figure 1). Biopsies from these lesions showed a subepidermal and adnexal grenz zone; a polymorphous perivascular and periadnexal dermal infiltrate composed of neutrophils, eosinophils, lymphocytes, histiocytes, and plasma cells; and a mild subtle leukocytoclastic vasculitis with subtle mild vascular necrosis (Figure 2).

Figure 1. Extrafacial granuloma faciale. Smooth, red-brown plaque in the posterior auricular area.

Figure 2. Extrafacial granuloma faciale. Low-power view demonstrated a grenz zone and a dense diffuse polymorphous infiltrate in the dermis (A)(H&E, original magnification ×10). High-power view showed that the infiltrate was composed of neutrophils, eosinophils, lymphocytes, and histiocytes. Findings of chronic leukocytoclastic vasculitis were seen with an area of fibrin deposition in dermal blood vessels (B)(H&E, original magnification ×20).

For the 9 patients who elected to undergo GF treatment, the average number of treatments attempted was 2.8 (range, 1–5). The most common method of treatment was a combination of intralesional and topical corticosteroids (n=5 [50%]). Other methods included surgery (n=3 [30%]), dapsone (n=2 [20%]), radiation therapy (n=2 [20%]), cryosurgery (n=1 [10%]), nitrogen mustard (n=1 [10%]), liquid nitrogen (n=1 [10%]), and tar shampoo and fluocinolone acetonide solution 0.01% (n=1 [10%]).

Treatment outcomes were available for 8 of 9 treated patients. Three patients (patients 7, 8, and 10) had long-term successful resolution of their lesions. Patient 7 had an extrafacial lesion that was successfully treated with intralesional and topical corticosteroids, but the facial lesions recurred. The extrafacial GF lesion in patient 8 was found adjacent to a squamous cell carcinoma and was removed with a wide surgical excision that included both lesions. Patient 10 was successfully treated with a combination of liquid nitrogen and topical corticosteroid. Patients 2 and 4 were well controlled while on dapsone; however, once the treatment was discontinued, primarily due to adverse effects, the lesions returned.

Literature Search
Our search of the English-language literature identified 20 patients with extrafacial GF (Table 2). Fifteen (75%) patients were male, which was similar to our study (6/10 [60%]). Our patient population was slightly older with a mean age of 58.7 years compared to a median age of 54 years among those identified in the literature. Additionally, 3 (30%) patients in our study had no facial lesions, as seen in classic GF, which is comparable to 8 (40%) patients identified in the literature.


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