Nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy: a novel cutaneous fibrosing disorder in patients with renal failure

Am J Med. 2003 May;114(7):563-72. doi: 10.1016/s0002-9343(03)00085-8.


Background: Nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy is a newly recognized cutaneous fibrosing disorder marked by the acute onset of induration involving the upper and lower limbs in patients with acute or chronic renal failure. The etiology, pathogenesis, associated clinical conditions (other than renal failure), and ultimate course have not been defined in the few cases studied. Presently, there is no effective treatment, and the condition persists in most patients.

Methods: Clinical and histopathologic data on 13 patients from our institution with the diagnosis of nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy were reviewed. Several clinical and laboratory parameters were examined to see if any were consistently associated with the disease. Biopsy specimens were analyzed to determine if there was a pattern to the evolution of fibrosis in these patients.

Results: All 13 patients had renal failure before disease onset: 8 were undergoing chronic hemodialysis, 2 were undergoing chronic peritoneal dialysis, and 3 with acute renal failure had never undergone dialysis before the development of dermopathy. Most patients had other serious underlying medical conditions. Many patients were taking erythropoietin, cyclosporine, or both before the onset of disease. In transplant patients, no histocompatibility antigens were found to be associated with the disease. There were various laboratory abnormalities, but none were consistently associated with the condition. In skin biopsy specimens taken 7 to 180 days after disease onset, there were histopathologic changes suggestive of a tissue reaction to injury, as well as the development of smooth muscle actin-positive myofibroblasts.

Conclusion: Nephrogenic fibrosing dermopathy is a novel cutaneous fibrosing disorder that is distinguished from other sclerosing or fibrosing skin disorders by distinctive clinical and histopathologic findings occurring in the setting of renal failure. There were no additional clinical risk factors or laboratory findings common to the 13 patients studied, other than renal failure. The resemblance to a tissue injury reaction and the presence of myofibroblasts in the tissue specimens suggest that fibrogenic cytokines may be involved in the evolution of the disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / pathology
  • Fibroblasts / physiology
  • Fibrosis / etiology*
  • Fibrosis / pathology*
  • Fibrosis / physiopathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / pathology
  • Myocytes, Smooth Muscle / physiology
  • Renal Dialysis
  • Renal Insufficiency / complications*
  • Renal Insufficiency / pathology*
  • Renal Insufficiency / physiopathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Skin Diseases / etiology*
  • Skin Diseases / pathology*
  • Skin Diseases / physiopathology