Dermoscopy of subungual haemorrhage: its usefulness in differential diagnosis from nail-unit melanoma

Br J Dermatol. 2013 Jun;168(6):1224-9. doi: 10.1111/bjd.12209.


Background: Subungual haemorrhages are characterized by well-circumscribed dots or blotches with a red to red-black pigmentation, but some cases can be difficult to distinguish from subungual melanoma by the naked eye alone. Dermoscopy has proven to be a useful, noninvasive tool in the diagnosis of pigmented lesions in the nail; however, few dermoscopic studies of subungual haemorrhages have been reported.

Objectives: To investigate characteristic dermoscopic patterns of subungual haemorrhages, and to find distinctive features that can differentiate them from nail-unit melanomas.

Methods: Patients with a confirmed diagnosis of either subungual haemorrhage or nail-unit melanoma at a tertiary university hospital were included in the study. Clinical features and dermoscopic patterns were evaluated.

Results: Sixty-four patients with a total of 90 lesions of subungual haemorrhage were enrolled in the study. The majority of cases (84%) showed combinations of more than one colour, while 16% had only one colour. The most common colour of the subungual haemorrhages was purple-black, in 37% of cases. A homogeneous pattern was observed in 92% of cases, globular patterns in 42% and streaks in 39%. Peripheral fading and periungual haemorrhages were found in 54% and 22% of cases, respectively. Destruction or dystrophy of the nail plate was observed in 16% of cases. In the 16 cases of nail-unit melanomas, Hutchinson sign, longitudinal irregular bands or lines, triangular shape of bands, vascular pattern, and ulcerations were found in 100%, 81%, 25%, 6% and 81% of cases, respectively. In contrast, these features were not found in subungual haemorrhages.

Conclusions: Dermoscopy provides valuable information for the diagnosis of subungual haemorrhage and aids in the differential diagnosis from nail-unit melanoma.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Dermoscopy* / methods
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Female
  • Hemorrhage / diagnosis*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Melanoma / diagnosis*
  • Middle Aged
  • Nail Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Skin Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Young Adult