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Experience with different treatment modules in hidradenitis suppuritiva: a study of 106 cases.

BACKGROUND: Hidradenitis suppuritiva, a disease of the apocrine sweat glands, has always been a challenging area to the plastic and reconstructive surgeon. The aetiology is idiopathic and medical treatment offers temporary relief only. Radical surgical excision, therefore, is the mainstay of active management.

AIM: To present and evaluate a series of 106 patients of hidradenitis suppuritiva treated in the regional plastic surgery unit of southeast Scotland between January 1990 and December 2000.

PATIENTS: Median age at onset was 36 years (range 17-70 years). The patients were predominantly females (88.78%) and heavy smokers (98.1%). Median age before active surgical intervention was six years (range 1-30 years). The patients were divided into a mild group (n=64) and a severe group (n = 42). All patients had broad-spectrum antibiotics and multiple incision and drainage procedures before referral from general practitioners, dermatologists or general surgeons. One hundred sites were managed by primary closure (mostly in the 'mild' group); 29 resurfaced with split skin grafts and 14 with local, fasciocutaneous or musculocutaneous flaps (mostly in the 'severe' group). Median postoperative follow-up period was three years (range 1-7 years).

RESULTS: In the 'primary closure' series, recurrence rate requiring at least one secondary operation was 69.88%. There was no recurrence, no serious complications and no revision operations in the 'graft' and the 'flap' series.

CONCLUSION: A high index of suspicion is required before contemplating primary closure in hidradenitis suppuritiva, even in the ' mild' variety. This condition should always be treated aggressively by radical excision of all hair-bearing areas and reconstructed with a graft or a flap.

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