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Case Reports

Indian Pediatrics 1998;35:1017-1020 

Acute Febrile Neutrophilic Dermatosis (Sweet's Syndrome)

P.V. Havaldar
Hemant Kumar
A.M. Koppad
Roopa Bellad
Kavita D. Mogale

From the Departments of Pediatrics J.N. Medical College, Belgaum, Karnataka, India.

Reprint requests; Dr. P. V. Havaldar, Professor, A-5, Staff Quarters, J.N. Medical College,
Belgaum 590 010, Karnataka, India.

Manuscript Received: November 19, 1997; Initial review completed: November 3D, 1997; Revision Accepted: April 19, 1998


Acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis was first reported by Sweet in 1964(1). So far more than 100 cases have been reported and most of them in adults(2). Till 1996, 20 children with this Syndrome were reported in the literature(2-6), none of them are from the Indian Subcontinent. Here we report one such case with classical features of Sweet's syndrome.

Case Report

An ll-year-girl presented with history of fever and skin lesions of six months duration. There was no history of contact with tuberculosis. She did not have any com- plaints of joint pains, cough, loss of weight, loss of appetite or bleeding manifestations. On examination she was well nourished, pale with high grade fever, but not toxic. There were no purpuric spots or lymphadenopathy. The skin lesions
showed painful erythematous oval, crusted plaques ranging from the size of 1 x 1 cm to 3 x 3 cm situated over all four extremities (Fig. 1). The crusts were yellowish brown firmly adherent and bled on removal. The margins of the ulcers were not under- mined. They were 20-30 in number with fresh small, waxing and waning pustular eruptions. Abdominal examination showed hepatomegaly of 3 cm while the other systems were normal. The laboratory investigations revealed hemoglobin of 6.3 g/ dl, total leukocyte count of 15,200 cells/cu mm, with neutrophilia of 69%. ESR was 100 m/l h by Westergren's method. Serum proteins, serum bilirubin and creatinine were within normal limits. Of the immunoglobulins IgG (2800 mg/ dl; normal 779- 1456 mg/dl) and IgA (550 mg/dl; normal 12-208 mg/ dl) were elevated and IgM (150 mg/dl; normal 35-132 mg/dl) was normal. LE cell phenomenon and HBs Ag were non contributory.


Fig. 1. Typical lesions of Sweet syndrome over the extremities.

Serum complement C3 and C4 levels and the leukocyte function tests like Nitroblue tetrozolium test, candidacidal assay, phagocytosis of killed C. albicans and neutrophil chemotaxis assay were within normal limits. X-ray chest was also normal. The cultures from the skin lesions taken thrice from depth of the ulcers after removal of cursts and puncturing of fresh lesions, did not yield any bacteria or fungus. The Mauntoux test was negative. Bone marrow which was normoblastic, normocellular and normal liver biopsy did not help to find out the cause of the anemia or any disease associated with this syndrome. Skin biopsy showed hyperkeratosis with crust formation and subepidermal inflammatory cell infiltrates mainly neutrophils with few lymphocytes and eosinophils with no evidence of vasculitis (Fig. 2). She was treated with multiple antibiotics like cefotaxime (100 mg/kg! day), cloxacillin (50 mg/kg/ day), gentamicin (5 mg/kg/ day) and ciprofloxacin (20 mg/kg/ day), each for a period of two weeks with no response. She was then put on steroids (prednisone 2 mg/kg/day in 3 divided doses) with no supplementary antibiotics and the lesions started to heal with falling off the crusts', leaving healthy non-granulomatous epidermis over a period of 6-8 days. There was no residual scar formation in any lesions. At the end of 8 weeks all lesions disappeared and she was discharged on low maintenance dose of corticosteroids (prednisone 5 mg/ day). Currently the patient is under regular follow-up with no skin lesions for 2 months.


Sweet syndrome is characterized by fever, leukocytosis, neutrophilia, multiple
sharply demarcated painful erythematous plaques mainly on face and extremities with dermal infiltration of mature neutrophils without vasculitis(7). It usually lasts for 3-9 weeks and resolves spontaneously. However, recurrent lesions lasting over 12 years have been observed(6). A rapid  response to cortkosteroids has also been reported(6).


Fig. 2. Photograph to show edema beneath the epidermis. Dense infiltrate of neutrophils, eosinophils surround blood vessels and appendages (H&E x35).


The characteristic skin histology consists of infiltrates- in upper and mid dermis which are most intense around blood vessels. Neutrophils predominate in early stages whereas mononuclear cells and histiocytes may be present in later stages. There is no evidence or leucocytoclastic vasculitis. Immune complex deposits are not always seen but one patient with linear homogenous immunoglobulin M has been reported(6).

Sweet syndrome has been associated with malignancies, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatological disorders, glycogen storage disorders, congenital dys-erythropoetic anemia, Fanconi's anemia, multifocal sterile osteomyelitis, aspetic meningitis, respiratory tract infection, Behcet's disease, erythema multiforme and granulocyte colony stimulating factor therapy( 6,7).

Two major and six minor criteria for diagnosis of Sweet syndrome have been proposed. A definitive diagnosis requires presence of both major and atleast two of the minor criteria. The major criteria are: (i) abrupt onset of tender erythematous or violaceous plaques, (ii) predominantly neutrophilic infiltrates in the dermis without leucocytoclastic vasculitis. The minor criteria include: (i) fever, (ii) arthralgia, (iii) conjunctivitis, (iv) underlying conditions as malignancy, (v) leucocytosis, (vi) lack of response to antibiotic treatment and response to corticosteroid therapy(6).

The present case described typically fits in the diagnostic criteria having both the major and three of the six minor criteria being present. We Were unable to diagnose any underlying disease like malignancy OF hematological disorders. It has been noted
that whenever underlying malignancy is not found,' it predominantly affects females, thus the suspicion for malignancy in Sweet's syndrome should be higher in male patients(7). Sweet syndrome is extremely rare in children. The exact etiology is not known. It is assumed to occur as a hyper- sensitivity reaction in bacterial, viral or tumor antigen in response to inappropriate secretion of endogenous cytokines as interleukin I or GCSF(6). The present case described though not having any under- lying disease is under surveillance for the same. The important differential diagnosis for Sweet syndrome is pyoderma gangrenosum.

Pyoderma gangrenosum and Sweet's syndrome have many features in common like, neutrophilic infiltration, altered immunological reactivity, association with malignancy, particularly hematological, development after GCSF therapy, response to immunosuppression treatment and reports of co-existence in a single patient. Hence, many authors believe that pyoderma gangrenosum and Sweet's Syndrome represent a continuum of spectrum of disease resulting from a single pathophysiological phenomenon, the common denominator being an inflammatory process mediated by neutrophils. Unlike pyoderma gangrenosum the lesions are not ulcerative and tend to heal without scarring(7).

Sweet's syndrome shows rapid response to corticosteroids, but recurrence is common. Antibiotics are found to be inef- fective.Potassium iodine, aspirin, colchicine and indomethacin have been tried but found to be in no way superior to corticosteroids(7). Cyclosporine had been found to be useful but necessitates long term therapy. Doxycycline can be used in chronic cases(7). The average duration of illness has shown to be 3-8 weeks with corticosteroids and 4-9 weeks without it.

The rarity of the syndrome with yet unidentified etiology and not a single case documentation in Indian children prompted us to report this case.


We thank the Department of Pathology, J.N. Medical College, Belgaum for histopathological study and Dr. V.D. Patil, Head of Department of Pediatrics and Dr. Mokashi, District Surgeon, for their encouragement.



1. Sweet RD. An acute febrile neutrophilic dermatosis. Br J Dermatol 1964; 76: 349- 351.

2. Lexin DL, Esterly BB, Herman JJ, Boxall LBH. The Sweet syndrome in children. J Pediatr 1981; 99: 73-78.

3. Baron F, Sybert VP, Andres RG, Cutaneous and extracutaneous neutrophilic infiltrates (Sweet Syndrome) in three patients with Fanconi's anaemia. J Pediatr 1989; 115: 726-729.

4. Majeed HA, Kalaaw M, Mohanty D, Teebi AS, Tunjekar MF, Gharbawy F, et al. Congenital dyserythropoetic anemia and chronic recurrent multifocal osteomyelitis in three related children and the association with Sweet syndrome in two siblings. J Pediatr 1989; 115: 730-734.

5. Dunn TR, Saperstein HW, Biederman A, Kaplan RP. Sweet syndrome in a neonate with aspetic meningitis. Pediatr Dermatol 1992; 9: 288-292.

6. Garty BZ, Levy I, Nitzan M, Barak Y. Sweet syndrome associated with G-CSF treatment in a child with glycogen storage disease type I-b. Pediatrics 1986; 97: 401-403.

7. Lear JT, Artherton MT, Byrne JPH. Neutrophilic dermatosis, pyoderma gangrenosum and Sweet's syndrome. Post Grad Med 11997; 73: 65-68.



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