Toxic epidermal necrolysis: a paradigm of critical illness

ABSTRACT Toxic epidermal necrolysis is an adverse immunological skin reaction secondary in most cases to the administration of a drug. Toxic epidermal necrolysis, Stevens-Johnson syndrome, and multiform exudative erythema are part of the same disease spectrum. The mortality rate from toxic epidermal necrolysis is approximately 30%. The pathophysiology of toxic epidermal necrolysis is similar in many respects to that of superficial skin burns. Mucosal involvement of the ocular and genital epithelium is associated with serious sequelae if the condition is not treated early. It is generally accepted that patients with toxic epidermal necrolysis are better treated in burn units, which are experienced in the management of patients with extensive skin loss. Treatment includes support, elimination, and coverage with biosynthetic derivatives of the skin in affected areas, treatment of mucosal involvement, and specific immunosuppressive treatment. Of the treatments tested, only immunoglobulin G and cyclosporin A are currently used in most centers, even though there is no solid evidence to recommend any specific treatment. The particular aspects of the treatment of this disease include the prevention of sequelae related to the formation of synechiae, eye care to prevent serious sequelae that can lead to blindness, and specific immunosuppressive treatment. Better knowledge of the management principles of toxic epidermal necrolysis will lead to better disease management, higher survival rates, and lower prevalence of sequelae.