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Long-term follow-up of patients with Herlitz-type junctional epidermolysis bullosa

Journal title
The British journal of dermatology
Publication year
Yuen, W. Y.; Duipmans, J. C.; Molenbuur, B.; Herpertz, I.; Mandema, J. M.; Jonkman, M. F.

BACKGROUND: Junctional epidermolysis bullosa, type Herlitz (JEB-H) is a rare, autosomal recessive disease caused by absence of the epidermal basement membrane adhesion protein laminin-332. It is characterized by extensive and devastating blistering of the skin and mucous membranes, leading to death in early childhood. OBJECTIVES: To present the results of the long-term follow-up of a cohort of patients with JEB-H, and to provide guidelines for prognosis, treatment and care. METHODS: All patients with JEB-H included in the Dutch Epidermolysis Bullosa (EB) Registry between 1988 and 2011 were followed longitudinally by our EB team. Diagnosis was established using immunofluorescence antigen mapping, electron microscopy and DNA analysis. RESULTS: In total, we included 22 patients with JEB-H over a 23-year period. Their average age at death was 5.8 months (range 0.5-32.6 months). The causes of death were, in order of frequency: failure to thrive, respiratory failure, pneumonia, dehydration, anaemia, sepsis and euthanasia. The pattern of initial weight gain was a predictor of lifespan in these patients. Invasive treatments to extend life did not promote survival in our patients. CONCLUSIONS: It is important to diagnose JEB-H as soon as possible after birth so that the management can be shifted from life-saving to comfort care. The palliative end-of-life care can take place in hospital, but is also safe in the home setting. Suffering in patients with JEB-H can become so unbearable that in some patients who do not respond to adequate analgesic and sedative treatment, newborn euthanasia, performed according to the Groningen protocol, is legally permitted in the Netherlands.

Research abstracts