Ultrasound detection and identification of cosmetic fillers in the skin

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Abstract

Background

While the incidence of cosmetic filler injections is rising world-wide, neither exact details of the procedure nor the agent used are always reported or remembered by the patients. Thus, although complications are reportedly rare, availability of a precise diagnostic tool to detect cutaneous filler deposits could help clarify the association between the procedure and the underlying pathology.

Objectives

The aim of this study was to evaluate cutaneous sonography in the detection and identification of cosmetic fillers deposits and, describe dermatological abnormalities found associated with the presence of those agents.

Methods

We used ultrasound in a porcine skin model to determine the sonographic characteristics of commonly available filler agents, and subsequently applied the analysis to detect and identify cosmetic fillers among patients referred for skin disorders.

Results

Fillers are recognizable on ultrasound and generate different patterns of echogenicity and posterior acoustic artefacts. Cosmetic fillers were identified in 118 dermatological patients; most commonly hyaluronic acid among degradable agents and silicone oil among non-degradable. Fillers deposits were loosely scattered throughout the subcutaneous tissue, with occasional infiltration of local muscles and loco-regional lymph nodes. Accompanying dermatopathies were represented by highly localized inflammatory processes unresponsive to conventional treatment, morphea-like reactions, necrosis of fatty tissue and epidermal cysts; in the case of non-degradable agents, the associated dermatopathies were transient, resolving upon disappearance of the filler.

Conclusions

Cosmetic filler agents may be detected and identified during routine ultrasound of dermatological lesions; the latter appear to be pathologically related to the cosmetic procedure.

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