The HoVert technique: a novel method for the sectioning of alopecia biopsies

J Cutan Pathol. 2011 May;38(5):401-6. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0560.2010.01669.x. Epub 2011 Jan 19.


Background: Cicatricial forms of alopecia, including lichen planopilaris (LPP) and discoid lupus erythematosus (DLE), may present with overlapping clinical features. In such cases, histopathological examination may provide key information for resolving the differential diagnosis. Optimally, microscopical analysis for alopecia requires both vertical and horizontal sections, and this may necessitate multiple samples. Here, we present what we term the "HoVert" technique, which produces horizontal and vertical sections from a single biopsy. We hypothesize that the HoVert technique should be useful for differentiating DLE from LPP.

Methods: A formalin-fixed 4 mm punch scalp biopsy is transected approximately 1 mm below the skin surface to create an epidermal disc and a lower portion. The epidermal disc is bisected and embedded in conventional fashion to obtain vertical sections. The lower portion is serially sectioned and embedded to obtain horizontal sections.

Results: The HoVert technique yields vertical sections permitting visualization of the epidermis, the dermal-epidermal junction and perijunctional inflammation. The technique also provides horizontal sections that permit analysis of follicle number, follicle type, perifollicular inflammation and scarring. Evaluation of both vertical and horizontal sections from a single scalp biopsy maximizes the histopathological information obtained and enhances the diagnosis of LPP or DLE in specific cases.

Conclusions: We believe that the HoVert technique represents a simple and diagnostically effective tool in differentiating LPP from DLE. It may also be applicable to the assessment of other forms of alopecia.

MeSH terms

  • Alopecia / pathology*
  • Biopsy
  • Dermis / pathology*
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Hair Follicle / pathology*
  • Histocytochemistry / methods*
  • Humans
  • Lichen Planus / pathology
  • Male
  • Microtomy / methods