Neutrophilic Dermatosis of the Hands: A Review of 17 Cases

J Hand Surg Am. 2018 Feb;43(2):185.e1-185.e5. doi: 10.1016/j.jhsa.2017.08.027. Epub 2017 Sep 21.


Purpose: Neutrophilic dermatosis of the hands is an inflammatory skin condition related to Sweet syndrome that responds to corticosteroids. It commonly affects the dorsum of the hand and often mimics infection, with violaceous inflammatory papules and plaques that may ulcerate. The aim of this study was to review the clinical presentation of neutrophilic dermatosis of the hands.

Methods: A retrospective review was undertaken of all cases of neutrophilic dermatosis of the hands seen at a tertiary hospital in New South Wales, Australia, over a 5-year period.

Results: Seventeen cases were identified. The mean time to diagnosis was 9 days after lesion onset. Most cases were older adults (mean age, 71 years). The most common referral diagnoses were infection or a nonhealing wound and 65% of cases reported a history of trauma. The dorsal index finger was the site of involvement in 41% of cases. One case involved the palm. Histopathology reports were available for skin punch biopsy for 14 of 17 cases, which showed dermal neutrophilic infiltrate (93%) and epidermal involvement with necrosis, ulceration, or pustulation (64%). Six cases were treated surgically prior to the correct diagnosis and management being introduced.

Conclusions: Neutrophilic dermatosis of the hands was often misdiagnosed as infection. A history of trauma is common and may be misleading. Dermatological consultation and skin punch biopsy are useful in confirming the diagnosis, ideally prior to surgical management.

Type of study/level of evidence: Diagnostic IV.

Keywords: Hand; Sweet syndrome; neutrophilic dermatosis.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Biopsy
  • Diagnostic Errors
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Hand Dermatoses / diagnosis*
  • Hand Dermatoses / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neutrophils / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Skin / pathology
  • Skin Diseases, Infectious / diagnosis
  • Sweet Syndrome / complications


  • Glucocorticoids