A Diagnostic Approach to Recurrent Orofacial Swelling: A Retrospective Study of 104 Patients

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To identify patients evaluated in an outpatient setting at our institution with a presentation of recurrent orofacial swelling and to review the spectrum of causes to outline a diagnostic approach.

Patients and Methods:

A retrospective study of 104 patients with more than 1 episode of orofacial swelling lasting for more than 5 days identified through a keyword search of the electronic health record from January 2, 2000, through July 5, 2011.


Patients were categorized according to final cause of orofacial swelling: idiopathic orofacial granulomatosis, solid facial edema due to rosacea and acne vulgaris, Crohn disease, contact dermatitis, sarcoidosis, exfoliative cheilitis, lichen planus, actinic cheilitis, cheilitis glandularis, lymphedema, miscellaneous, and multifactorial. Granulomatous inflammation was noted on biopsy in 40 of 85 patients (47%). Oral involvement was associated with Crohn disease (P<.001), and facial and periorbital swelling was associated with solid facial edema in the setting of rosacea and acne vulgaris (P<.001).


The broad range of diagnoses responsible for recurrent orofacial swelling underscores the diagnostic challenge and importance of a thorough multidisciplinary evaluation to identify underlying causes.

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