JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Panniculitis. Part I. Mostly septal panniculitis.

The panniculitides represent a group of heterogeneous inflammatory diseases that involve the subcutaneous fat. The specific diagnosis of these diseases requires histopathologic study because different panniculitides usually show the same clinical appearance, which consists of subcutaneous erythematous nodules on the lower extremities. However, the histopathologic study of panniculitis is difficult because of an inadequate clinicopathologic correlation, and the changing evolutionary nature of the lesions means that biopsy specimens are often taken from late-stage lesions, which results in nonspecific histopathologic findings. In addition, large-scalpel incisional biopsies are required. However, we believe that by obtaining appropriate biopsy specimens and with adequate clinicopathologic correlation, a specific diagnosis may be rendered in most cases of panniculitis. It must be accepted that all panniculitides are somewhat mixed because the inflammatory infiltrate involves both the septa and lobules; however, in general the differential diagnosis between a mostly septal and a mostly lobular panniculitis is straightforward at scanning magnification. Mostly septal panniculitides with vasculitis include leukocytoclastic vasculitis involving the small blood vessels of the septa; superficial thrombophlebitis resulting from inflammation and subsequent thrombosis of large veins of the septa; and cutaneous polyarteritis nodosa, which is a vasculitis involving arteries and arterioles of the septa of subcutaneous fat with few or no systemic manifestations. Often septal panniculitides with no vasculitis are the consequence of dermal inflammatory processes extending to the subcutaneous fat, such as necrobiosis lipoidica, scleroderma, subcutaneous granuloma annulare, rheumatoid nodule, and necrobiotic xanthogranuloma. However, in other cases, the inflammatory process is primarily located in the fibrous septa of the subcutis with or without involvement of the overlying dermis. The most frequently seen septal panniculitis is erythema nodosum, which, in fully developed lesions, is characterized histopathologically by Miescher's radial granulomas in the septa.

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