Acne vulgaris severity graded by in vivo reflectance confocal microscopy and optical coherence tomography

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Abstract

Introduction

Acne is an inflammatory disease of the pilosebaceous unit, which can be investigated in vivo using reflectance confocal microscopy (RCM) and optical coherence tomography (OCT).

Objectives

By means of RCM and OCT to identify morphological characteristics of acne that may be associated with clinical acne severity.

Methods

Patients with mild to moderate facial acne (n = 14, Investigators Global Assessment scale, IGA 1–3), and healthy participants (n = 7, IGA 0) were included in this explorative study. A total of 108 RCM image blocks and 54 OCT scans (each RCM and OCT image measuring 6 × 6 mm) were captured from lesional-, perilesional, and lesion-free skin areas. Acne lesions, infundibular regions of follicles and inflammation degree were compared in acne patients and healthy participants.

Results

Combined use of RCM and OCT demonstrated infundibular morphology, acne lesions, and blood flow. RCM images of perilesional- and lesion-free skin in acne patients revealed follicle infundibula with hyperkeratinized borders and abundant keratin plugs, contrasting skin of healthy participants. Higher acne severity related to increased number of follicles with hyperkeratotic borders (P = 0.04) and keratin plugs (P = 0.006), increased infundibulum diameter (P < 0.001), increased density of inflammatory cells (P < 0.001), and blood flow (P = 0.03). Acne lesion morphology was not associated with acne severity.

Conclusion

Combined use of RCM and OCT elucidated distinctive follicle infundibulum characteristics and inflammation degree that were associated with acne severity. Future trials may apply imaging techniques to support clinical acne grading, and monitor treatment efficacy. Lasers Surg. Med. 9999:1–10, 2018. © 2018 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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