Thursday, September 03, 2009

Annals of Puzzling Purpuras

Percussion Purpura -- Taiko Purpura
Submitted by Trudi Shim
, San Antonio, Texas

History: The patient is a 63 year-old Japanese-Hawaiian woman who plays Taiko drums as a hobby. She has a past history of porphyria cutanea tarda (PCT) from estrogens which is now quiescent. A few years back, she developed tendonitis of her wrists and received cortisone injections near each wrist from two different physicians. When she developed a hypopigmented patch of skin on her right forearm she attributed it to the cortisone injection. The patch was characterized by an large, flat, smooth area of hypopigmentation, and occasionally some round, bright red spots appeared in the hypopigmented area. They would disappear after a week or two. She consulted a dermatologist a year ago because she worried that this might be contagious. He diagnosed tinea, but did no KOH prep and she has been faithfully applying clotrimazole ever since, but without relief. The dermatologist also raised the spectre of Hansen's Disease which worried the patient, a retired public health nurse, greatly. She does not have any known skin problems elsewhere on her body at this time.

On Examination: The patch is now predominately reddish in color, with sharp irregular borders. The skin is fragile in the sense that if she hits her arm against something, it will break and take a while to heal. - similar to what used to happen way back when she had PCT. This only occurs in the localized area of hypopigmentation.

Clinical Photos:
Patient and Taiko

Discussion: This case presentation contains some interesting points. The patient is a late middle-aged Japanese-Hawaiian woman who has lived in the sub-tropics for her entire life. Thus, she has a fair amount of solar elastosis. The intra-articular corticosteroid most likely caused more localized atrophy and the trauma the arm experienced doing heavy drumming was all she needed to cause purpura. The diagnosis of tinea without a KOH prep showed a certain cavalier approach on the part of her practitioner; and the suggestion of the possibility of Hansen's Disease should not have been made unless a biopsy followed. Leprosy in economically comfortable people born in Hawaii is very unusual. Most cases seen in the Hawaiian Islands today are in immigrants from the Philippines, Oceania and Southeast Asia. Purpura is not a usual finding, but rather a hypopigmented anesthetic plaque (tuberculoid leprosy). Lepromatous leprosy would often appear more dramatically. The patient's PCT is likely not related, but she should have regular liver function studies and ferritin levels looked at. In the absence of other findings urinary porphyrins may not be necessary. "Percussion Purpura" while likely not super rare, has not been reported before.

Comments: Your thoughts and questions will be most welcome.


  1. This is interesting case.This patch has well defined clear cut margin which is against any type of purpura.Also the picture is not that of ant type of leprosy.The patch still contain active vesicles similar to that of porphyria.So is it a lesion of porphyria induced by trauma????

    khalifa sharquie Baghdad

  2. Dr. Merlina Joseph, MDSeptember 08, 2009

    The hypo-pigmentation and atrophy is due to steroid injections for her tendinitis. The underlying blood vessels are easily traumatized from physical activities like percussion.

  3. While the patient has has PCT diagnosed over 15 years ago, she has not had problems over the past 10 years or so. Her ferritin and urinary porphyrins have not been done in years and she still takes oestrogens. If her PCT may be playing a role, these should be looked at. The corticosteroid injection was given in this ares, so that is important from a causative standpoint, too.


We welcome your comments. We endeavor to serve your patients and you. If you want us to respond, please add your name and email address. Some people have trouble uploading comments. In that case, please send comments directly to Thank you.