A systematic review of post-surgical pyoderma gangrenosum: identification of risk factors and proposed management strategy

J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2015 Mar;68(3):295-303. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2014.12.036. Epub 2014 Dec 29.


Background: Post-surgical pyoderma gangrenosum (PSPG) presents as a rapidly expanding cutaneous ulcer at a site of surgery with potentially devastating consequences. We systematically reviewed the English and foreign language literature to identify risk factors for PSPG and propose a management strategy.

Methods: A systematic review was completed in PubMed, Medline, Embase, and Cochrane Database for all published reports of PSPG from January 1946 to June 2013. We manually examined bibliographies for relevant references and used Google Translate for articles in foreign languages, including Italian, Japanese, German, Dutch, Turkish, Spanish, Chinese, Dutch, Russian, Portuguese, and Czech.

Results: We identified 220 cases of PSPG (mean age 52.8 years, range 5-85 years). Thirty-seven patients (16.8%) had a history of pyoderma gangrenosum, nineteen (8.6%) had a hematologic disorder such as leukemia or lymphoma, thirteen (5.9%) had inflammatory bowel disease, and eight (3.6%) had rheumatoid arthritis. PSPG occurred most commonly after breast (25%), cardiothoracic (14%), abdominal (14%), and obstetric (13%) surgeries. The most common breast procedures were bilateral reduction mammoplasty (45%), breast reconstruction (25%), and lumpectomy or mastectomy (11%). Signs of wound complication occurred on average 7.0 days after surgery. Nineteen patients (8.6%) at risk for PSPG received perioperative corticosteroids during skin grafting or later surgeries with a favorable outcome.

Conclusions: Patients with a history of pyoderma gangrenosum, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease, or hematologic malignancy who are undergoing breast, cardiothoracic, or abdominal surgeries should be carefully observed for post-operative ulceration at incision sites. Debridement should not be performed before dermatologic consultation to assess for PSPG. Patients at risk of PSPG undergoing breast surgery may benefit from perioperative prednisone to prevent PSPG which can lead to destructive wound enlargement and significant scarring.

Keywords: Post-operative complications; Pyoderma gangrenosum; Wound healing; Wound ulceration.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Postoperative Complications / therapy*
  • Pyoderma Gangrenosum / therapy*
  • Risk Factors
  • Surgical Wound Infection / therapy*