Novel Method Found to Benefit Patients With Severe Rhinophyma

DENVER – A stepwise method that combines surgical debulking and fractionated ablative laser was effective for treating elderly individuals with severe rhinophyma, results from a series of three patients demonstrated.

Rhinophyma occurs primarily in the sixth and seventh decades of life and is marked by facial hypertrophy that leads to tumor-like growth, inflammation, fibrosis, and loss of the cosmetic nasal subunits. “When it becomes severe it leads to a degree of embarrassment as well,” one of the study authors, Patricia Richey, MD, said during an oral abstract session at the annual meeting of the American Society for Dermatologic Surgery. “We found that our method has been efficacious, but most often, and more importantly, leads to an improvement in the patient’s quality of life.”

Dr Patricia Richey

To date, clinicians have used fully ablative lasers to treat varying degrees of rhinophyma but at a cost of prolonged healing time and higher rates of scarring and pigment or textural changes. However, not all dermatologists use full-field ablative lasers in their practices.

“Fractionated ablative lasers have been used in the past for mild to moderate rhinophyma, but they cannot ablate to 100% density, which would be necessary to debulk the marked hypertrophy present in our patients,” said Richey, who practices Mohs surgery and cosmetic dermatology in Washington, D.C., and conducts research for the Wellman Center for Photomedicine and the Dermatology Laser and Cosmetic Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston. “That’s why we added a surgical component.”

She and colleague Mathew M. Avram, MD, JD, developed a three-step method for treating severe rhinophyma that they performed on three elderly patients. Step 1 is the surgical debulk. Following infiltration of local anesthesia, a razor blade or 15-blade is used to excise the most prominent lobules of hypertrophied sebaceous tissue down to the fibrofatty layer of the nose as a partial thickness excision that does not reach the level of the perichondrium or cartilage. “Hemostasis is achieved with electrocoagulation and application of petrolatum ointment, followed by a pressure dressing,” Richey said. “The location of the debulk varies by patient.”

Step 2 involves fractionated ablative laser treatment 4 weeks later with either the CO2 or erbium:YAG (Er:YAG) 2,940-nm laser. According to Richey, the typical setting for the fractionated CO2 is a fluence of 70mJ/cm2 and a high density, performing six out of four passes with 60 seconds between each pass, “though these settings may vary based on the patient presentation,” she said.

The treatment level ranges from 5 (14% density) to 10 (70% density, for the most severe cases). Meanwhile, a representative setting for the ablative fractionated Er:YAG 2,940-nm laser is 250 mcm, no coagulation, 5.5% density, and one pass. “If a second surgical debulk is performed on the same day as ablative laser treatment, the sites of shave removal are typically avoided with the laser,” she said. If a certain portion of the nose has recently healed following surgical debulk 4 weeks prior, they may perform only two passes in this region.

In an interview, Avram, who directs the MGH Dermatology Laser and Cosmetic Center, characterized the staged method as providing “transformative change to severe, cosmetically disfiguring rhinophyma. The ablative fractional laser provides more fine-tuned contouring.”

The three patients studied had an average of three to four monthly treatments. “There is typically a great deal of improvement by the second treatment,” Richey said. Add-on treatments may include low voltage electrodessication at 1.8 watts for patients with well-demarcated papules of sebaceous hyperplasia, and a vascular laser such as the pulsed dye laser if telangiectasias are present.

One limitation of the stepwise method, she said, is that the surgical debulk typically results in a scar, “but it’s rarely noticeable if carefully performed, likely due to fractionated ablative use during the scar remodeling period. It’s important to set expectations with your patient at the initial consult. We always discuss treatment goals and that while we aim achieve the most desirable outcome possible, we’re never going to get them back to having a completely normal nose. They’re always going to have some mild or moderate rhinophymatous changes present.”

Vincent Richer, MD, a Vancouver-based medical and cosmetic dermatologist who was asked to comment on these results, characterized the stepwise method as promising. “Though more treatments are required, the easier recovery, safe outcomes in the case presented and excellent cosmetic result made it an interesting alternative when fully ablative resurfacing is daunting, either for patients or physicians involved,” he said in an interview.

The researchers reported having no relevant disclosures. Richer disclosed that he performs clinical trials for AbbVie/Allergan, Galderma, Leo Pharma, Pfizer, and is a member of advisory board for Bausch, Celgene, Eli Lilly, Galderma, Janssen, Johnson & Johnson, Leo Pharma, L’Oréal, and Sanofi. He is also a consultant to AbbVie/Allergan, Bausch, Celgene, Eli Lilly, Galderma, Janssen, Johnson & Johnson, Leo Pharma, L’Oréal, Merz, and Sanofi.

This story originally appeared on, part of the Medscape Professional Network.

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