Mesenteric Ischemia Secondary to Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis: Case Report and Review of the Literature

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Abstract

A 28-year-old otherwise healthy man was admitted to the burn center for treatment of toxic epidermal necrolysis (TEN) involving 90% of the TBSA and oropharynx. On hospital day 8, his cutaneous lesions were healing well, but he developed respiratory distress, fever, and abdominal distension. Computerized tomography demonstrated distended bowel, pneumatosis intestinalis, and portal venous gas. He underwent emergent celiotomy. Patchy areas of nonperforated necrosis along the jejunum and ileum were present. No mechanical or embolic source of ischemia could be identified. A 120-cm segment of ischemic small bowel was resected and the abdomen was closed temporarily. On planned “second look” the following day, no further disease was encountered and intestinal continuity was restored. Tube feeds were then initiated and the patient’s recovery was uneventful thereafter. Although traditionally considered a skin disorder, TEN may be more accurately described as a disorder affecting the junction of an epithelium and its supporting tissue. It is most prominently manifested at the epidermal–dermal junction, but epithelial–submucosal junctions are also affected. The ocular, respiratory, genitourinary, and gastrointestinal manifestations of TEN are variable and incompletely understood. This disease is rooted in immunological dysfunction and the small bowel is rich in immunologically active tissue; Peyer patches and lymph nodes abound. Clinicians should be vigilant for gastrointestinal tract involvement, which is potentially treatable with resection of the ischemic bowel. The authors suspect that, given the critical condition of many TEN patients, bowel symptoms may be incorrectly attributed to global hypoperfusion and sepsis.

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