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J Perinatol. 2008 Jul;28(7):453-60. doi: 10.1038/jp.2008.33. Epub 2008 Mar 27.

Sclerema neonatorum: a review of nomenclature, clinical presentation, histological features, differential diagnoses and management.

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Department of International Health, International Center for Advancing Neonatal Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, MD 21205, USA.



To review published literature on sclerema neonatorum (SN) in order to clarify its clinical presentation, histological features and management compared with two other diseases: subcutaneous fat necrosis of the newborn (SCFN) and scleredema.


PubMed database was searched using the key words Sclerema neonatorum. A total of 55 articles from peer-reviewed journals were reviewed and summarized.


SN, SCFN and scleredema are diseases of the subcutaneous adipose tissue. SN is characterized by hardening of the skin that gets bound down to the underlying muscle and bone, hindering respiration and feeding and is associated with congenital anomalies, cyanosis, respiratory illnesses and sepsis. Histology of the skin biopsy shows thickening of the trabeculae supporting the subcutaneous adipose tissue and a sparse inflammatory infiltrate of lymphocytes, histiocytes and multinucleate giant cells. SCFN has circumscribed hardening of skin on bony prominences with necrosis of adipocytes in subcutaneous tissue and a dense granulomatous infiltrate on histology. Scleredema is characterized by hardening of the skin along with edema; histology shows inflammatory infiltrate and edema in skin and subcutaneous tissues. SN has a high case fatality rate whereas SCFN and scleredema are self-limiting and lesions resolve within a few weeks to months. Exchange transfusion may improve survival in SN.


The histological features of skin biopsy should be used to establish diagnosis of SN, SCFN and scleredema as disease-specific treatment is imperative in SN due to high fatality.

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