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Harlequin Ichthyosis Workup

  • Author: Julie Prendiville, MBBCh; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
 
Updated: Jun 03, 2016
 

Approach Considerations

A diagnosis of harlequin ichthyosis is usually made by clinical examination in the newborn. 

Prenatal diagnosis of harlequin ichthyosis is made by analysis of fetal DNA obtained by chorionic villus sampling or amniocentesis.

In the absence of a family history, a prenatal diagnosis of harlequin ichthyosis can be suspected or identified by ultrasonography. 

Investigations in the newborn with harlequin ichthyosis are performed to identify the gene mutation, to monitor supportive care, and to identify complications.

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Laboratory Studies

Genetic testing for mutations in the ABCA12 gene is available. Complete sequence analysis of the coding region of this gene is performed to identify specific mutations. Peripheral blood cells or cells from a buccal smear from affected individuals are required. Extensive information regarding genetic testing for harlequin ichthyosis is available from GeneDx. Carrier testing is available for relatives after the proband's mutation is identified. Prenatal diagnosis is available for fetuses with suspected harlequin ichthyosis who may or may not have a family history of the disorder.[8]

The following laboratory investigations may be helpful in the newborn period to identify complications of harlequin ichthyosis:

  • Check the WBC count and skin and blood cultures for signs of infection.
  • Closely monitor serum electrolyte levels, which may be abnormal secondary to dehydration.
  • Monitor serum calcium and glucose, as hypocalcemia and hypoglycemia may occur.
  • Check BUN and creatinine levels for signs of renal failure.
  • Monitor hemoglobin levels because severe anemia is reported.
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Imaging Studies

Prenatal ultrasonography, particularly 3-dimensional ultrasonography, may show features suggestive of harlequin ichthyosis. This has been particularly helpful in antenatal diagnosis of infants with no family history of harlequin ichthyosis. Characteristic features include a large and gaping mouth, aplasia of the nose, abnormal limbs, bulging eyes, rudimentary ears, flexion contractures, and floating particles in the amniotic fluid.[4, 15, 16, 17] Growth restriction and polyhydramnios are also described.

Two-dimensional ultrasonography can also demonstrate features of harlequin ichthyosis but not until late in the second trimester, when enough keratin buildup is present to be sonographically detectable. Short feet may be an early marker for harlequin ichthyosis. This may be detectable in the early second trimester before other signs of harlequin ichthyosis are noticeable.[18]

Chest radiography may be indicated if respiratory distress is present postnatally.

Renal ultrasonography may be indicated if renal failure or poor urine output is evident. Renal dysplasia has been described in harlequin ichthyosis.

Further investigations should be based on the history and findings from physical examination.

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Procedures

Before genetic testing was available, fetal skin biopsy was sometimes used to detect ultrastructural changes consistent with harlequin ichthyosis.[3] Fetal skin biopsy could help in detecting harlequin ichthyosis as early as 19 weeks' gestation. Biopsy samples from a number of sites in the fetus revealed characteristic changes on all skin surfaces except the mucous membranes. Amniotic fluid samples obtained as early as 17 weeks' gestation have also demonstrated hyperkeratosis and abnormal lipid droplets in the cornified cells.

Fetal skin biopsy is no longer performed for diagnosis of harlequin ichthyosis.  

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Histopathologic Findings

The stratum corneum is thick and compact. Hyperkeratosis may be more marked around hair follicles compared with the interfollicular epidermis. The histopathologic hallmark is an extraordinary thickened and compact orthokeratotic stratum corneum, although in some cases parakeratosis has been observed. Cells within the stratum corneum are abnormally keratinized. Granular, spinous, and basal cell layers appear unremarkable. Inflammatory cells may infiltrate the papillary dermis. Hair follicles show marked, concentric accumulation of keratotic material around hair shafts, which is considered a diagnostic feature of harlequin ichthyosis and has been used to establish the diagnosis prenatally.

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Other Tests

Electron microscopy reveals absent or abnormal lamellar granules within the granular layer keratinocytes. Lamellae are absent in the intercellular spaces between the granular cell layer and the cornified cell layer. Densely packed lipid droplets and vacuoles are seen within the cytoplasm of the aberrantly cornified cells of the stratum corneum. These lipid inclusions involve the entire skin surface but are more evident on the palms and the soles. Keratohyalin granules may be absent, normal, or abnormally small and globular. Keratin intermediate filaments within granular cells may have reduced density.

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Contributor Information and Disclosures
Author

Julie Prendiville, MBBCh Clinical Professor in Pediatrics, University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine; Head, Division of Pediatric Dermatology, British Columbia's Children's Hospital, Canada

Julie Prendiville, MBBCh is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, Society for Pediatric Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Francisco Talavera, PharmD, PhD Adjunct Assistant Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Received salary from Medscape for employment. for: Medscape.

Steven R Feldman, MD, PhD Professor, Departments of Dermatology, Pathology and Public Health Sciences, and Molecular Medicine and Translational Science, Wake Forest Baptist Health; Director, Center for Dermatology Research, Director of Industry Relations, Department of Dermatology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine

Steven R Feldman, MD, PhD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology, American Society of Dermatopathology, North Carolina Medical Society, Society for Investigative Dermatology

Disclosure: Received honoraria from Amgen for consulting; Received honoraria from Abbvie for consulting; Received honoraria from Galderma for speaking and teaching; Received consulting fee from Lilly for consulting; Received ownership interest from www.DrScore.com for management position; Received ownership interest from Causa Reseasrch for management position; Received grant/research funds from Janssen for consulting; Received honoraria from Pfizer for speaking and teaching; Received consulting fee from No.

Chief Editor

Dirk M Elston, MD Professor and Chairman, Department of Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery, Medical University of South Carolina College of Medicine

Dirk M Elston, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Dermatology

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Additional Contributors

Arash Taheri, MD Research Fellow, Center for Dermatology Research, Department of Dermatology, Wake Forest University School of Medicine

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Wen Lyn Ho, MBBCh, BAO(HON), MRCPI Clinical Fellow in Pediatric Dermatology, British Columbia Children’s Hospital, Canada

Wen Lyn Ho, MBBCh, BAO(HON), MRCPI is a member of the following medical societies: Royal College of Physicians of Ireland, British Association of Dermatologists, Irish Association of Dermatologists

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Acknowledgements

The authors and editors of Medscape Reference gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous author, Sheila Au, MD, to the development and writing of this article.

References
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Harlequin ichthyosis. Courtesy of Dr Bernice Krafchik.
Harlequin ichthyosis. Courtesy of Jason K Rivers, MD, FRCPC, and Dr Lawler.
 
 
 
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