Naked Hair Shafts as a Marker of Cicatricial Alopecia

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Naked hair shafts (NHS) are free-floating hair shafts devoid of surrounding epithelium, supporting structures, and/or embedded in inflammation that may result from destruction of hair follicles by scarring processes such as inflammation and fibroplasia. Extensive examination of NHS has not been performed in scalp biopsies of alopecia. We retrospectively evaluated 622 scalp biopsies of alopecia [345 cicatricial alopecias (central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, lichen planopilaris, discoid lupus erythematosus, acne keloidalis nuchae, and folliculitis decalvans] and 277 non–cicatricial alopecias [alopecia areata, androgenic alopecia, telogen effluvium, and psoriatic alopecia)] for the presence of NHS. NHS occurred in 0.72% (2/277) of non–cicatricial alopecias (1/102 of alopecia areata, 1/150 of androgenic alopecia, 0/17 of telogen effluvium, and 0/8 of psoriatic alopecia) and 20% (72/345) of cicatricial alopecias (27/118 of central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia, 29/109 of lichen planopilaris, 2/75 of discoid lupus erythematosus, 11/16 of acne keloidalis nuchae, and 3/27 of folliculitis decalvans). The presence of NHS was significantly increased in cicatricial alopecias in comparison with non–cicatricial alopecias; P value <0.0001. Among the cicatricial alopecias, 26% (92/345) had mild inflammation and/or fibrosis, of which 9% (9/92) had NHS. There were 73% (253/345) that had moderate to severe inflammation and/or fibrosis, of which 24% (63/253) had NHS, indicating that as the severity of inflammation and fibrosis increases, so does the presence of NHS. NHS rarely occurs in non–cicatricial alopecias. This variation may result from destruction of hair follicles by the inflammatory and scarring processes. The presence of NHS may be a useful adjunctive histopathologic feature in the diagnosis of cicatricial alopecia.

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