• In an effort to provide a greater understanding of the cutaneous features of cholesterol crystal embolization (CCE), we reviewed the clinical features of all histologically proved cases reported in the English-language literature, exclusive of cases in which there was only central nervous system or cardiac involvement. We found that the skin is involved in 35% of patients with CCE. Livedo reticularis is the most common skin manifestation (49%), followed by gangrene (35%), cyanosis (28%), ulceration (17%), nodules (10%), and purpura (9%). Cholesterol crystal embolization was most common in older men and was frequently associated with anticoagulant therapy (36%) or vascular procedures (31%). Because of its protean systemic manifestations, CCE was often mistaken for vasculitis (16%) and periarteritis nodosa (12%). Mortality was very high (72%). Histologic confirmation of cutaneous CCE was possible in 92% of cases where a skin biopsy specimen was obtained. We conclude that the diagnosis of cutaneous CCE should be suggested and easily confirmed histologically in the appropriate clinical setting.
(Arch Dermatol 1986;122:1194-1198)