Journal of Cutaneous and Aesthetic Surgery
Print this page
Email this page
Small font size
Default font size
Increase font size
Home About us Current issue Archives Instructions Submission Subscribe Editorial Board Partners Contact e-Alerts Login 

CASE REPORT Table of Contents   
Year : 2008  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 31-32
Split skin grafting for leg ulcers complicating rheumatoid arthritis

Department of Dermatology and Plastic Surgery, PSG Hospitals, Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu, India

Click here for correspondence address and email


Leg ulcers as a complication of rheumatoid arthritis are difficult to heal. We present a case responding to treatment with cyclophosphamide and split skin grafting

Keywords: Leg ulcer, Rheumatoid arthritis, Cyclophosphamide, Skin grafting

How to cite this article:
Rai R, Aruchamy M, Srinivas CR. Split skin grafting for leg ulcers complicating rheumatoid arthritis. J Cutan Aesthet Surg 2008;1:31-2

How to cite this URL:
Rai R, Aruchamy M, Srinivas CR. Split skin grafting for leg ulcers complicating rheumatoid arthritis. J Cutan Aesthet Surg [serial online] 2008 [cited 2022 Jun 29];1:31-2. Available from:

   Introduction Top

Vasculitis involving small and medium-sized vessels is reported to be associated with rheumatoid arthritis. Arteritic leg ulcers are usually deep, punched out and slow healing. [1] We report a patient of rheumatoid arthritis with large necrotic ulcers who responded to cyclophosphamide pulse therapy and slough excision followed by split skin grafting.

   Case Report Top

A 38-year-old female with rheumatoid arthritis presented with ulcers of both legs of 1-month duration. She had gangrene of the left second, third and fourth toes. The ulcers were well defined with necrotic slough and haemorrhagic crusting involving right heel, posterior aspect of right ankle and calf of left leg [Figure 1]. The size of the ulcers varied from 2 to 6 cm. She was a diabetic on treatment with oral antidiabetics.

Investigations revealed hypochromic microcytic anaemia with neutrophilic leucocytosis and thrombocytosis. Rheumatoid factor was positive. ANA, DsDNA, antiSSA, antiSSB, antiScl 70, anticardiolipin antibody, antiJo-l, antiu1RNP and anticentromere A were negative. Biopsy of the ulcer showed evidence of leucocytoclastic vasculitis.

She received a single pulse of 500 mg of intravenous cyclophosphamide and antibiotic. She was then treated with 40 mg prednisolone, 50 mg of cyclophosphamide and oral antidiabetics.

A week later under general anaesthesia, necrotic slough was excised, gangrenous toes were amputated and split skin grafting placed over the ulcers. Pulse therapy with cyclophosphamide was repeated after 15 days since she developed two new ulcers. Approximately 50% of the graft had taken. Two weeks later split skin grafts were again placed over the ulcers and patient continued cyclophosphamide 50 mg while her steroids were gradually tapered and stopped. Ulcer healed over a period of 3 months [Figure 2]. She had no recurrence of ulcers in 10 months after surgery.

   Discussion Top

Vasculitis associated with rheumatoid arthritis involves both small and medium-sized vessels and is associated with neuropathy, digital gangrene, nail fold infarct and palpable purpura. Skin may show necrotic painful ulcers with black scabs. [2] Gangrene results from vasculitic changes involving the digital vessels and involves hands and foot. Cyclophosphamide is used for potentially life-threatening dermatoses that are resistant to other forms of treatment. These include systemic necrotising vasculitis, severe forms of systemic lupus, severe blistering disorders, multi-centric reticulohistiocytosis, relapsing polychondritis and pyoderma gangrenosum. [3] Necrotic slough not only acts a nidus for infection but also impairs collagen synthesis as fibroblasts have to compete with bacteria and inflammatory cells for oxygen and nutrients. Breakdown of collagen is enhanced due to collagenolytic activity of mediators released to combat secondary infection. [4] Split skin grafting is useful for leg ulcers. Healing by secondary intention leads to contraction, deformities and scars. Split skin grafts protect the vital structures from injury, acts as a biological dressing and are a source of growth factor and interleukins. [5] The graft can be thin (0.006′′-0.012′′) intermediate (0.012′′-0.018′′) or thick (0.018′′-0.024′′). We opted for intermediate split skin graft as capillaries are more in comparison to other types of split skin grafts. Necrotic slough was removed to create a healthy ulcer bed for better uptake of intermediate split skin grafting. These steps helped us in achieving a functionally and cosmetically acceptable result.

   References Top

1.Rowell NR, Goodfield MJD. The connective tissue diseases. In : Champion RH, Burton JL, Ebling FJ, editors. Textbook of Dermatology. 5 th edn. Oxford: Blackwell Scientific Publication; 1992. p. 2287-22.  Back to cited text no. 1    
2.Sutej P Jorizzo JL. Rheumatoid arthritis, Rheumatic fever and gout. In : Freedberg IM, Eisen AZ, Wolff K, et aI ., editors. Dermatology in General Medicine. New York: McGraw Hill; 1999. p. 2061-66.  Back to cited text no. 2    
3.Dutz JP, Ho VC. Immunosupressive agents in dermatology. Dermatol Clin 1998;16:235-50.  Back to cited text no. 3  [PUBMED]  
4.Savant SS, Shah RA. Wound healing. In : Savant SS, Shah RA, Gore D, editors. Textbook and Atlas of Dermatosurgery and Cosmetology. Mumbai: ASCAD; 1998. p. 12-7.  Back to cited text no. 4    
5.Savant SS. Split skin grafting. In : Savant SS, Shah RA, Gore D, editors. Textbook and Atlas of Dermatosurgery and Cosmetology. Mumbai: ASCAD; 1998. p. 115-29.  Back to cited text no. 5    

Correspondence Address:
Chakravarthi R Srinivas
Department of Dermatology, PSG Hospitals, Coimbatore - 641 004, Tamil Nadu
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0974-2077.41158

Rights and Permissions


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]


    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

    Case Report
    Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded292    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal