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Citation Information : Journal of Ultrasonography. Volume 19, Issue 79, Pages 282-286, DOI: https://doi.org/10.15557/JoU.2019.0042
License : (CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0)
Published Online: 31-December-2019
The vulva is an external female genital organ, which has a complex anatomy composed of hymen, anal margin, labia minora, labia majora and clitorial hood(1). Different types of epithelium predispose to a wide range of conditions known as vulvar dermatoses(2,3). Vulvovaginal tissues are particularly susceptible to many irritants and allergens compared to other skin sites(4). Tissue atrophy and immunologic changes that occur with aging increase the risk of the most common vulvar dermatoses(2), such as inflammatory disorders(3), infections (folliculitis, condyloma accuminata) and precancerous conditions (vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia and vulvar Paget’s disease)(5). Due to the unique location and anatomy, understanding VD requires knowledge in both dermatopathology and gynecologic pathology(6). Nowadays, vulvar diagnosis is based on macroscopic evaluation, physical examination, vulvoscopy, microbiological specimen collection and biopsy(7). Recent publications highlight the utility of high-frequency 40–50 MHz transducers in detailed imaging of epidermal echo, dermis, and the upper part of subcutaneous tissue, skin appendages (hair, follicles) as well as vessels running in the dermis and upper subcutaneous tissue, and pathologically altered skin(7,8) In this study, we analyzed clinical, ultrasonographic and histological images to correlate HFUS with histological images.
The study was approved by the board of Clinical Unit of Obstetrics, Women’s Disease and Gynecological Oncology, United District Hospital, Collegium Medicum University of Nicolaus Copernicus in Toruń, Poland. Four cases of postmenopausal women referred to our clinic for biopsy were included in the analysis. In this study, we performed high-frequency ultrasonography (HFUS) using 48MHz DermaView mechanical probe scanner (Dramiński S.A., Poland) prior to surgical excision. The collected specimens of altered tissue were formalin-fixed and paraffin-embedded. The paraffin-embedded blocks were cut into 4 μm sections for a routine histology evaluation.
Folliculitis is a common skin condition in which a hair follicle becomes inflamed. It is caused by bacterial or fungal infection. Most of cases resolve spontaneously within a few days. In the case of our patient, the lesion was not resolving for 2 months despite antibiotic and steroid treatment. The patient was qualified for histological verification (Fig. 1). HFUS showed a well-defined hypoechoic subepidermal lesion as compared to adjacent tissue, with sharp margin, without posterior acoustic enhancement extending to the dermis (Fig. 2). A histological evaluation was performed to to verify ultrasonographic findings (Fig. 3).
Condyloma (from Greek “knuckle”) refers to papular genital wart-like growths. Condyloma acuminatum refers to single lesions. Genital warts are a productive vegetative manifestation of epithelial infection caused by human papillomavirus (HPV), which infects epithelial basal cells. Although 90% of those who contact HPV will not develop warts, they can still transmit the virus(9). However, approximately 10% of individuals develop a persistent infection, with a risk of developing benign proliferative lesions, high-grade precursors or eventually invasive carcinoma(10). Complete surgical excision with histologically clear margins in cases of single lesion is the best treatment approach(9). A 70-year-old woman with condyloma acuminatum was referred to our clinic for histological evaluation (Fig. 4). HFUS was performed prior to surgery. Condyloma presented in HFUS as a hypoechoic homogeneous lesion compared to the adjacent tissue, with sharp margin, located within the epidermis and dermis, without subcutaneous tissue involvement (Fig. 5). Final histology confirmed condyloma acuminatum with a clear margin of excised lesion (Fig. 6).
Lichen sclerosus (LS) is a chronic inflammatory disease with unknown pathophysiology. Potential factors include genetic predisposition, autoimmune disorders, local immune response, sex hormone factors (low estrogen levels) and some infections(11,12). Although the disease may occur at any age, there is a typical bimodal onset in prepubertal girls and peri- or postmenopausal women(12). Malignant transformation to squamous cell carcinoma has been reported in 2–5% of patients(11). Differential diagnosis includes lichen planus, psoriasis, lichen simplex chronicus, vitiligo, immunobullous disease and mucous membrane pemphigoid(11,12). Our patient was an 80-year-old woman suffering from intractable pruritus worsening at night, pruritus ani, irritation and soreness (Fig. 7). The characteristic ultrasound features were hyperechoic entry echo, and thin dermis with typical hypoechoic upper part of dermis. The border between dermis and subcutaneous tissue was linear (Fig. 8). Histological examination confirmed lichen sclerosus of vulva (Fig. 9).
The incidence of vulvar intraepithelial neoplasia (VIN) has increased over years to 2.86 per 100,000 population in 2000(13,14). This is associated with increased incidence of HPV infections(13). Originally, VIN lesions were classified as VIN 1–3. In 2004, the International Society for the Study of Vulvovaginal Diseases (ISSVD) developed new classification for VIN. Usual VIN (uVIN) is strongly associated with HPV infection. Differentiated VIN (dVIN) is associated with lichen sclerosus(15). The dVIN is more common in older women and represents only about 5% of VIN lesions. One systematic review reported progression of VIN 3 to invasive disease in 9% of 88 patients within a period of 1 to 8 years(16). Despite spontaneous regression in most cases, aggressive treatment for vulvar high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion is encouraged(17).
A 75-year-old woman was referred to our unit for biopsy. Macroscopic examination revealed aceto-white changes on the left labia minora (Fig. 10). HFUS showed a nodular mass lesion arising from thickened epidermal entry echo. A sub-epidermal hypoechoic band confirmed that the lesion is restricted to the epidermis (Fig. 11). A histological examination confirmed VIN 3 (high-grade squamous intraepithelial lesion, Fig. 12).
The aim of the research was to assess the utility of high-frequency ultrasonography in preoperative assessment of pathological vulvar lesions and a correlation between these images and histological findings. HFUS equipped with a 48 MHz probe is particularly useful to assess the margin, depth and size of the lesion in most cases(18). There are few reports on HFUS skin imaging, and so far this is the first report focusing on HFUS imaging in vulvar pathologies(19,20). However, biopsy is a gold standard for the diagnosis of skin pathologies like tumors or VD that are resistant to standard therapy. There is a define need for objective, non-invasive modality for diagnosis and localization of vulvar pathologies. HFUS serves this purpose as it may provide reasonably accurate information on vulvar skin pathologies, such as size, shape, depth and consistency before invasive skin biopsy or surgery(19). These reports correspond with our observations. We were able to precisely assess vulvar pathologies, acquiring necessary information for better planning of the surgical procedure in 4 cases. Furthermore, in the case of a large condyloma, HFUS accurately showed the depth of the lesion, which was located within the dermis without deeper invasion to the subcutaneous tissue. However, is should be emphasized that ultrasound images depend on tissue composition, which influences the properties of the reflected sound wave. The greater the difference in acoustic impedance, the greater the reflection of the wave. In the case of folliculitis, LS and VIN, it was possible to see the echogenicity of the lesion. Condyloma was completely hypoechoic due to its dense structure. The echogenicity of the dermis is influenced by several factors, like orientation of collagen fibers, type of ground substances and water content(21–23). In cases of folliculitis and LS, we noticed a subepidermal low-echogenicity band (SLEB). As it is not a pathognomic feature for these dermatoses, we would like to highlight the presence of this ultrasonographic finding. SLEB is present in many different conditions, such as inflammatory dermastoses (psoriasis, eczema, atopic dermatitis), mycosis fungoides, skin elastosis as well as in the photo-damaged skin(20–24). To our knowledge, this is the first study to report VD imaging with HFUS. In clinical practice, however, in case of doubts in the differential diagnosis, histological evaluation of the skin biopsy specimen is the proceeding of choice.