HPI: In 2000, this retired professor had CABG surgery with saphenous vein harvesting of the left leg, In 2002, while visiting Vienna, he was hospitalized for cellulitis of the left leg and treated with i.v. antibiotics. In the subsequent years, he has had progressive lymphedema of the left leg with the development of elephiantiasis nostra verrucosa. In the past 6 months he has had four documented episodes of cellulitis which have necessitated antibiotics. Recently, he has developed a generalized dermatitis. His medications include: atenolol, amiodarone, digoxin, diovan, thyrpid, Coumadin, Lovastatin, ASA. He has a possible allergy to penicillin (has not taken it in 40 years). He is otherwise quite healthy and intellectually alert.
O/E: Chronic lymphedema left leg with erythema, scale and some honey-colored crust. The leg in involved from just below the knee to the foot. The left leg is only minimally warmer than the right leg. In addition, he has a wide-spread dermatitis consisting of erythematous scaly patches on legs, arms and abdomen -- sparing the face.
Lab: His internist did a skin culture and CBC b efore sending him here (results not back) . He was on Bactrim at the time of the culture.
Diagnosis: Recurrent Cellulitis s/p saphenous veif harvesting wit the development of chronic lymphedema and early elephiantiasis nostras. This was reported in 1982 (see Reference). The wide-spread dermatitis may be an "id" reaction.
1) What has been learned about this entity since 1982?
2) Should he be rechallenged with penicillin and kept on long-term antibiotic prophylaxis.
3) What role does "hypersensitivity" to bacterial exotoxins play in the dermatitis.
4) Does anyone have magic for cases such as this?
5) Allergic contact dermatitis will be ruled out by patch testing.
Comment: My plan at the moment is to "clean up" any residual infection, consider prophylactic antibiotics and work on the dermatitis. I will refer him to a lymphedema center, if possible, for evaluation. Aggressive management of his leg swelling will help. He was told not to bathe the leg and I think this sets him up for infection. Your thoughts will be greatly appreciated. This man's life revolves around his leg. He is a keen student, a political scientist and in his later years he must focus exclusively on a leg. Let's give him "a leg to stand on!"
Follow-up: The patient was treated with compression stockings, cephalexin 250 mg qid for two weeks (based on sensitivities), desoximetasone 0.25% cream and lymphatic massage. There was no evidence of tinea pedis. He has improved markedly.
Photos taken June 10, 2008
Recurrent cellulitis after saphenous venectomy for coronary bypass surgery.
Baddour LM, Bisno AL.
Ann Intern Med. 1982 Oct;97(4):493-6.
We describe a previously unreported complication of coronary artery bypass
grafting, recurrent cellulitis. Five patients had 20 episodes of acute
cellulitis, each occurring in the lower extremity in which saphenous venectomy
had been done. The cases were striking because the patients presented with high
fever and considerable systemic toxicity. The appearance of the lesions, presence
in one case of obvious associated lymphangitis, and prompt response in three
instances to therapy with penicillin alone all suggest group A streptococcal
infection. In one case, a beta-hemolytic, bacitracin-susceptible Streptococcus
strain was isolated from the lesion. The pathogenesis of this syndrome remains
obscure but, based on our understanding of postsurgical erysipelas, this
cellulitis likely results from the interplay of several factors, including local
compromise of lymphatic drainage, direct bacterial invasion, and acquired
hypersensitivity to streptococcal exotoxins.