Clinical and Ultrastructural Studies of Romberg's Hemifacial Atrophy

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Romberg's disease is an uncommon and poorly understood condition manifested by progressive hemifacial atrophy of skin, soft tissue, and bone. In order to better define the natural history and anatomic variation of this disorder, we evaluated 41 patients by history, physical examination, and facial radiographs. Light microscopic studies were performed on tissue from 19 patients, and ultrastructural analysis was performed on specimens from 6 patients.The average age at inception of the disease was 8.8 years. Atrophy, within one or more trigeminal nerve dermatomes, progressed at a variable rate (mean period of active tissue dissolution = 8.9 ± 6 years). In 26 patients with skeletal involvement, the mean age of onset was 5.4 years, versus 15.4 years for 15 patients without skeletal involvement, a statistically significant difference (p < 0.01). However, there was no correlation between the severity of soft-tissue deformity and the age of onset.Electron microscopy demonstrated lymphocytic infiltrates in neurovascular bundles and abnormalities of vascular endothelium and basement membranes. We hypothesize that the pathogenesis of Romberg's disease involves chronic cell-mediated vascular injury and incomplete endothelial regeneration along branches of the trigeminal nerve (lymphocytic neurovasculitis).

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