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Pigmented Casts

Miteva, Mariya MD; Romanelli, Paolo MD; Tosti, Antonella MD

The American Journal of Dermatopathology: January 2014 - Volume 36 - Issue 1 - p 58–63
doi: 10.1097/DAD.0b013e3182919ac7
Original Study

Abstract: Pigmented casts have been reported with variable frequency in scalp biopsies from alopecia areata, trichotillomania, chemotherapy-induced alopecia and postoperative (pressure induced) alopecia. Their presence and morphology in other scalp disorders has not been described. The authors assessed for the presence and morphology of pigmented casts in 308 transversely bisected scalp biopsies from nonscarring and scarring alopecia, referred to the Department of Dermatology, University of Miami within a year. The pigmented casts were present in 21 of 29 cases of alopecia areata (72%), 7 of 7 cases of trichotillomania (100%), 1 case of friction alopecia, 4 of 28 cases of central centrifugal cicatricial alopecia (14%), and 4 of 4 cases of dissecting cellulitis (100%). They did not show any distinguishing features except for the morphology in trichotillomania, which included twisted, linear (zip), and “button”-like pigment aggregation. The linear arrangement was found also in friction alopecia and dissecting cellulitis. Pigmented casts in the hair canals of miniaturized/vellus hairs was a clue to alopecia areata. Pigmented casts can be observed in biopsies of different hair disorders, but they are not specific for the diagnosis. Horizontal sections allow to better assess their morphology and the follicular level of presence of pigmented casts, which in the context of the other follicular findings may be a clue to the diagnosis.

Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami, FL.

Reprints: Mariya Miteva, MD, Department of Dermatology and Cutaneous Surgery, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, 1600 NW 10th Avenue, RSMB, Room 2023A, 33136 Miami, FL (e-mail:

Disclosures: The authors declare no conflicts of interest.

© 2014 by Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.