Stevens-Johnson Syndrome and Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis: A Concise Review with a Comprehensive Summary of Therapeutic Interventions Emphasizing Supportive Measures

Adv Ther. 2017 Jun;34(6):1235-1244. doi: 10.1007/s12325-017-0530-y. Epub 2017 Apr 24.


Introduction: Stevens-Johnson syndrome (SJS) and toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) are two of the most severe dermatologic conditions occurring in the inpatient setting. There is a lack of consensus regarding appropriate management of SJS and TEN.

Purpose: The scientific literature pertaining to SJS and TEN (subsequently referred to as SJS/TEN) is summarized and assessed. In addition, an interventional approach for the clinician is provided.

Methods: PubMed was searched with the key words: corticosteroids, cyclosporine, etanercept, intravenous immunoglobulin, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, and toxic epidermal necrolysis. The papers generated by the search, and their references, were reviewed.

Results: Supportive care is the most universally accepted intervention for SJS/TEN. Specific guidelines differ from the care required for patients with thermal burns. Adjuvant therapies are utilized in most severe cases, but the data are thus far underwhelming and underpowered. Using systemic corticosteroids as sole therapy is not supported. A consensus regarding combined corticosteroids and intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIG) has not been reached. Data regarding IVIG, currently the standard of care for most referral centers, is conflicting. Newer studies regarding cyclosporine and tumor necrosis factor inhibitors are promising, but not powered to provide definitive evidence of efficacy. Data regarding plasmapheresis is equivocal. Thalidomide increases mortality.

Conclusion: Clinicians who manage SJS/TEN should seek to employ interventions with the greatest impact on their patients' condition. While supportive care measures may seem an obvious aspect of SJS/TEN patient care, providers should understand that these interventions are imperative and that they differ from the care recommended for other critically ill or burn patients. While adjuvant therapies are frequently discussed and debated for hospitalized patients with SJS/TEN, a standardized management approach is not yet clear based on the current data. Therefore, until further data are available, decisions regarding such treatments should be made on a case-by-case basis.

Keywords: Corticosteroids; Cyclosporine; Dermatology; Etanercept; Immunoglobulin; Johnson; Necrolysis; Stevens; Syndrome.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / therapeutic use
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Cyclosporine / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous / therapeutic use
  • Stevens-Johnson Syndrome / drug therapy*
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Immunoglobulins, Intravenous
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Cyclosporine