Lichenoid esophagitis: clinicopathologic overlap with established esophageal lichen planus

Am J Surg Pathol. 2013 Dec;37(12):1889-94. doi: 10.1097/PAS.0b013e31829dff19.


Lichen planus (LP) affects mucocutaneous surfaces and is characterized by intraepithelial and lamina propria lymphocytosis and squamous cell apoptosis (Civatte bodies). Lichen planus esophagitis (LPE) is underrecognized; concurrent cutaneous disease is present in some patients, but LPE alone is more common. We diagnose patients with characteristic pathologic findings of LPE and known correlation with skin disease or immunofluorescence (IF) results as LPE but use descriptive terminology ("lichenoid esophagitis pattern" [LEP]) when confirmation is unavailable. We reviewed clinicopathologic features of patients diagnosed at our institution with LPE or LEP. There were 88 specimens with LPE or LEP from 65 patients. Most patients were female. Seventeen patients had LPE confirmed by IF. Five patients had both esophageal (1 with IF) and skin LP. Strictures were a prominent presenting feature in LPE patients, with disease distribution more frequent in the upper and lower esophagus. Dysphagia was a common reason for endoscopy in LEP patients. Rheumatologic diseases are more common in patients with LPE compared with LEP. Viral hepatitides and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infections are associated with LEP. We defined polypharmacy as patients taking >3 medications; this finding was present in both LPE and LEP cohorts; however, this is a prominent feature in those with established LPE. Progression to dysplasia was noted in both cohorts. About 5% of LPE patients have tandem skin manifestations. LPE is more likely than LEP to arise in women, result in stricture formation, and be associated with rheumatologic disorders and polypharmacy, whereas LEP is associated with viral hepatitis and HIV. Both can progress to neoplasia. As the risk of stricture formation is high in patients with LPE, it is worth performing pertinent IF studies to confirm LPE, although knowledge of the clinical association of LEP with viral hepatitis, HIV, and use of multiple medications is of value in daily practice.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Esophageal Diseases / epidemiology
  • Esophageal Diseases / etiology
  • Esophageal Diseases / pathology
  • Esophagitis* / epidemiology
  • Esophagitis* / etiology
  • Esophagitis* / pathology
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • Hepatitis, Viral, Human / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Lichen Planus* / epidemiology
  • Lichen Planus* / etiology
  • Lichen Planus* / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polypharmacy
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Rheumatic Diseases / epidemiology
  • Young Adult