Case Reports

Severe Phymatous Rosacea of the Nose, Cheeks, and Chin Treated With Hydrosurgery

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Aside from clinical findings of hyperplastic and fibrotic sebaceous glands in conjunction with enlargement of the affected facial areas, histopathologic findings of phymatous rosacea vary but typically include hypertrophy of subcutaneous tissue, enlarged sebaceous ducts filled with keratin and sebum, atrophy of the dermis, and abnormal vascular development in the form of telangiectases.

Phymatous rosacea adversely affects patients’ physical, mental, and social well-being. Left untreated, it can cause nasal obstruction and recurrent bacterial infections. Furthermore, because of the potential extent of facial deformity, phymatous rosacea can be highly stigmatizing.3 Nonmelanoma skin cancers have been reported within phymatous skin, but evidence of an association between the 2 diseases remains inconclusive.4 Excised tissue from our patient was not submitted to pathology for analysis.

Given the far-reaching physical and psychological consequences of phymatous rosacea, treatment is critical but, regrettably, challenging. Although medical and surgical interventions exist, surgery is the most common practice. Oral isotretinoin may help, but many cases are recalcitrant, as was the disease in our patient. Therefore, procedural remedies often are sought, including scalpel excision, cryosurgery, argon laser, CO2 laser, dermabrasion, and electrocautery.2

Our patient underwent Versajet II Hydrosurgery System treatment of the phymatous rosacea on the nose, cheeks, and chin. Versajet is not yet commonly used to treat phymatous rosacea, likely due to the upfront cost of obtaining a new device, lack of physician familiarity, and few reports of its use for phymatous skin. A search of PubMed, EMBASE, and the Web of Science using the terms Rosacea AND (Versajet OR Hydrosurgery) yielded only 6 cases of rosacea treated by hydrosurgery; all were limited to rhinophyma and reported excellent cosmetic and functional results.5-10 Our case was unique in that hydrosurgery was used to treat phymatous rosacea beyond the nose.

Hydrosurgery has many advantages in the treatment of phymatous rosacea and other conditions in which surgical debridement is necessary, such as burns and wounds. A randomized clinical trial demonstrated that hydrosurgery is more cost-effective than conventional excision because of decreased operative time and intraoperative blood loss, fewer debridement procedures, and fewer postoperative complications.11

Rennekampff et al12 showed that Versajet debridement is superior to conventional surgery in contouring facial and acral sites and has a lower probability of infection. They proposed that by running a highly pressurized constant stream of saline across the device, Versajet clears blood and debris from the surgical site during excision.12 Hydrosurgical debridement also has been shown to reduce Staphylococcus aureus inoculate levels from in vitro–contaminated equine models significantly more than conventional debridement methods (P<.05).13

Versajet surgery appears to be well tolerated, with side effects comparable to those of classic surgical excision. A randomized controlled trial in burn patients in which treatment with Versajet was compared to traditional debridement found no significant difference in postoperative pain, healing time, and contracture rate.13

Overall, tangential excision of our patient’s phymatous rosacea using the Versajet II Hydrosurgery System yielded excellent contouring. However, due to the paucity of literature on the subject, it is difficult to discern the optimal treatment modality. Therefore, more research—ideally randomized trials—should be pursued to examine the comparative effectiveness of different interventions for phymatous rosacea.


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