Panniculitis

Author: Dr Amy Stanway, Dermatology Registrar, Waikato Hospital, Hamilton, New Zealand, 2002. Updated by A/Prof Amanda Oakley, February 2016.

What is panniculitis?

Panniculitis refers to a group of conditions that involve inflammation of subcutaneous fat. Despite having very diverse causes, most forms of panniculitis have the same clinical appearance. The diagnosis is established by a skin biopsy, as there are characteristic microscopic features depending on the cause. The most common form of panniculitis is erythema nodosum.

Panniculitis is classified as mostly septal panniculitis or mostly lobular panniculitis depending on the site of the most intense microscopic inflammation. Most types of panniculitis have both lobular and septal inflammation. Further classification is based on whether or not there is subcutaneous vasculitis.

Classification of panniculitis

Mostly septal panniculitis with vasculitis

Mostly septal panniculitis without vasculitis

Mostly lobular panniculitis with vasculitis

Mostly lobular panniculitis without vasculitis

What are the clinical features of panniculitis?

Panniculitis presents typically with:

Sometimes, lesions resolve to leave localised subcutaneous atrophy (lipodystrophy).

How is panniculitis diagnosed?

Panniculitis is diagnosed by a combination of clinical features, biopsy findings and microbiological culture. Sometimes other investigations are necessary.

Treatment of panniculitis

Treatment of panniculitis includes:

Related information

Make a donation

Donate Today!

Watch a melanoma video

More videos from DermNet NZ