Hidradenitis suppurativa: pathogenesis and management

Br J Plast Surg. 2003 Jul;56(5):451-61. doi: 10.1016/s0007-1226(03)00177-2.


Hidradenitis suppurativa (HS) is a chronic disease manifested by recurrent abscesses, sinus tracts and scarring. It arises most commonly, however, not exclusive from apocrine gland bearing skin. This review article sets out to clarify the importance of early diagnosis, the pathogenesis and aetiology of HS, and evidence for medical and surgical therapies for this debilitating disease.HS is caused primarily by follicular occlusion with secondary involvement of the apocrine glands. The aetiology is still poorly understood. There is a genetic component with probable hormonal influence on gene expression. Shearing forces from obesity and tight clothing contribute to its development. Management should be appropriately tailored for the severity and distribution of HS as well as quality of life of the patient. Medical management with appropriate antibiotics, if initiated early, can be successful in mild to moderate severity HS as well as improving disease control prior to attempted curative surgery in severe HS. Other helpful measures include advice on lifestyle changes, intralesional steroids, systemic retinoids, hormonal manipulation, and a revival of interest in the use of radiotherapy for HS. While there is a place for 'conservative' surgical procedures (including CO(2) laser) in selected cases of mild to moderate HS, radical excision of all apocrine-bearing tissue is the definitive treatment. We advocate close interdisciplinary collaboration as well as a cautionary approach to timing and planning of surgery to minimise recurrence rates.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bandages
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Hidradenitis Suppurativa* / etiology
  • Hidradenitis Suppurativa* / pathology
  • Hidradenitis Suppurativa* / therapy
  • Humans
  • Laser Therapy / methods
  • Lymph Node Excision
  • Male
  • Secondary Prevention
  • Surgical Flaps
  • Wound Healing