Atrophic Papulosis

Dermatology. 2023;239(2):177-187. doi: 10.1159/000526789. Epub 2022 Nov 9.


Background: Atrophic papulosis (AP) is a rare obliterating vasculopathy characterized by specific skin lesions. The etiology and the pathophysiology of the disease remain unclear. The treatment is still empirical, while the malignant form of the disease is associated with a poor prognosis.

Summary: The underlying pathogenesis of AP includes three mechanisms with vasculopathy, coagulopathy, and endothelial dysfunction. Benign and malignant forms of AP are described. The benign form is confined to the skin. The pathognomonic skin lesions evolve over time and are large papules with an atrophic porcelain-white center and an erythematous rim. However, systemic involvement can occur months or years after the initial skin features. In this latter case, the associated mortality is very high with a mortality rate of over 65% in some series. Gastrointestinal involvement and central nervous system infarctions are the most frequent causes of death. Treatment is empirical with the use of antiplatelet therapy, anticoagulants, steroids, intravenous immunoglobulins, and immunosuppressive agents. Recent evidence shows that eculizumab, a complement inhibitor, is the most effective therapy in malignant AP with gastrointestinal involvement of the disease and should be combined with treprostinil to prevent relapse.

Keywords: Dermatopathology; Immunology; Skin inflammation; Vasculitis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Erythema
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Malignant Atrophic Papulosis* / complications
  • Malignant Atrophic Papulosis* / diagnosis
  • Malignant Atrophic Papulosis* / pathology
  • Skin / pathology


  • Immunosuppressive Agents