Expanding the spectrum of frontal fibrosing alopecia: a unifying concept

Ai-Lean Chew, Saqib J Bashir, E Mary Wain, David A Fenton, Catherine M Stefanato
Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology 2010, 63 (4): 653-60

BACKGROUND: In frontal fibrosing alopecia (FFA), scalp alopecia dominates the clinical picture. However, eyebrow loss and hair loss in other body sites may also occur; this has been documented clinically, but rarely histopathologically. We describe the clinicopathological findings of 13 cases of FFA, with histopathologic data from the scalp, eyebrow, and body hair.

METHODS: Thirteen patients with a diagnosis of FFA, seen between 2006 and 2008, were included. Scalp biopsies were performed in all patients for histology and direct immunofluorescence (DIF). Biopsy specimens for histology were taken from the eyebrow in 6 patients and from the upper limb in 5 patients.

RESULTS: All 13 patients were female, 11 of whom were postmenopausal. The median age at onset of alopecia was 57 years. Clinical examination revealed a band of frontal hairline recession in all patients. Eyebrow loss was present clinically in all patients, with loss of body hair in 10 of 13. Histopathologic examination of the scalp, eyebrow, and upper limb skin biopsy specimens showed similar features, including a marked reduction in the number of hair follicles and a perifollicular lymphoid cell infiltrate with perifollicular fibrosis. Direct immunofluorescence was negative in all cases.

LIMITATIONS: Not all patients consented to biopsies of the eyebrows or upper limbs.

CONCLUSION: Eyebrow and peripheral body hair loss is not uncommon in FFA-a finding that is likely underreported. We have demonstrated that alopecia of the upper limbs in FFA is indeed common and, histopathologically, shows features of lichen planopilaris and scarring, similar to findings in the scalp and eyebrows. Consequently, the process of lichen planopilaris with scarring alopecia is generalized rather than localized only to the frontal scalp and eyebrows.

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