Case Letter

Scrotal Ulceration: A Complication of Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy and Subsequent Treatment With Dimethyl Sulfoxide

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Practice Points

  • Scrotal ulceration following hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy has been reported only a few times in the literature and is likely underreported. The presentation in all reported cases was similar, with a delay in symptom onset of weeks to months, involvement of the anterior scrotum, and pain.
  • Dimethyl sulfoxide, used in other vesicant reactions, may have a role in mitigating tissue damage. Alternatively, methods to prevent sequestration of vesicants in the potential space of the tunica vaginalis layers can be employed.



To the Editor:

A 54-year-old man with a history of stage IV appendiceal carcinoid adenocarcinoma treated approximately 3 months prior with intraoperative hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) presented to our clinic with scrotal pain of 5 days’ duration. He had no history of genital herpes, topical contactants, other cutaneous lesions on the body, fever, or chills. On physical examination the patient had an erythematous, purpuric, indurated, tender plaque on the left anterolateral and anterior midline of the scrotum (Figure 1). No other areas of acral purpura or livedoid cutaneous changes were identified. There was no inguinal lymphadenopathy. Biopsy was performed for histologic examination as well as tissue culture. Histology demonstrated epidermal necrosis without evidence of vasculitis. Tissue culture was unremarkable.

Figure 1. Scrotal ulceration 5 days after symptom onset, with 2 prominent areas of involvement on the left anterolateral and anterior midline of the scrotum with retiform purpura that connected the 2 sites. Erythema and induration surrounded these foci of involvement.

Two days after clinic evaluation, the patient presented to the emergency department with progression of the lesions, and he was admitted to the hospital for pain control. Computed tomography of the pelvis showed bilateral hydroceles without evidence of abscess. Ultrasonography showed scrotal thickening without abscess or fluid collection. On day 5 in the hospital, a regimen of topical 60% dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO) was applied every 8 hours to the affected area. The patient experienced notable pain relief and a decrease in erythema within 7 hours of application (Figure 2). This regimen was continued for 7 days with improvement in surrounding erythema and pain; however, the patient’s pain persisted in the areas of necrosis. Fourteen days following completion of therapy (27 days following presentation), the patient underwent debridement and partial scrotal resection for eschar removal. Histologic examination of the debrided scrotal tissue showed necrosis extending into the dermis and no evidence of vasculitis.

Figure 2. A, Scrotal ulceration 10 days after symptom onset, prior to the application of 60% dimethyl sulfoxide. Purpura progressed to areas of eschar and increased in surface area of surrounding erythema and induration. B, Seven hours after the first application of 60% dimethyl sulfoxide.

Our case demonstrates a unique presentation of scrotal necrosis secondary to mitomycin C (MitC) extravasation subsequently managed with DMSO. Imaging and biopsy findings effectively ruled out infection or vasculitis and led us to consider extravasation reactions that typically occur at peripheral intravenous (IV) infusion sites. Suspected cases of scrotal necrosis following HIPEC with MitC have been reported in the literature, along with hypothesized pathophysiology.1-3

In consideration of the proposed pathophysiology, individuals with hydroceles may be more likely to experience this complication due to an abnormal but not uncommon communication between the intraperitoneal cavity and the scrotum via a patent processus vaginalis. The location of necrosis on the anterior scrotum remains unexplained. It may be a consequence of the anatomic location of the hydrocele, a collection of fluid within the tunica vaginalis. The tunica vaginalis is composed of an inner visceral and outer parietal layer, enveloping the testis at the anterior border but not the superior or posterior border. Thus, sequestration of MitC in a hydrocele would correlate anatomically to necrosis of the anterior wall of the scrotum.

Akhavan et al1 proposed the testes are unaffected because of the presence of the tough fibrous coat of the tunica albuginea that directly adheres to the testes, in addition to the adjacent visceral layer of the tunica vaginalis. These 2 layers separating the testes and the hydrocele may provide a double barrier of protection for the testes.1

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