Nail matrix dermoscopy
- 1 Basic dermoscopical semiology on nails 
- 1.1 Blood spots
- 1.2 Brown background to the pigmentation
- 1.3 Gray or gray-yellowish background to the pigmentation
- 1.4 Regular pattern of parallel micro-lines
- 1.5 Irregular pattern of longitudinal parallel micro-lines
- 1.6 Micro Hutchinson’s sign
- 1.7 Atypical Hutchinson’s sign
- 1.8 Longitudinal xantholeukonychia
- 1.9 Band-like longitudinal splinter hemorrhages
- 1.10 Longitudinal erythronychia with enlarged proximal origin
- 1.11 Localized subungual hyperkeratosis and distal triangular plate erosion
- 1.12 Polychromia
- 2 Atypical vessels 
- 3 Advanced dermoscopy techniques
DermoscopyThe examination of [skin lesions] with a 'dermatoscope'. This traditionally consists of a magnifier (typically x10), a non-polarised light source, a transparent plate and a liquid medium between the instrument and the skin, and allows inspection of skin lesions unobstructed by skin surface reflections. Modern dermatoscopes dispense with the use of liquid medium and instead use polarised light to cancel out skin surface reflections. has been used for many years in the differential diagnosisis the identification of the nature and cause of a certain phenomenon. Diagnosis is used in many different disciplines with variations in the use of logic, analytics, and experience to determine "cause and effect". In systems engineering and computer science, it is typically used to determine the causes of symptoms, mitigations, and solutions of pigmented skin tumors and has been proven superior to naked-eye examination in the differential diagnosis of melanomaThis glossary term has not yet been described. on the skinThis glossary term has not yet been described.. It therefore seems logical that this technique was first used on the nail unit to better establish the differential diagnosis of nail pigmented longitudinal bands (also known as melanonychia striata). After the publication by Ronger et al. , several reports have further analyzed pigmented longitudinal bands of the nail plate. Even though some doubts have been expressed about the real value of dermoscopyThe examination of [skin lesions] with a 'dermatoscope'. This traditionally consists of a magnifier (typically x10), a non-polarised light source, a transparent plate and a liquid medium between the instrument and the skin, and allows inspection of skin lesions unobstructed by skin surface reflections. Modern dermatoscopes dispense with the use of liquid medium and instead use polarised light to cancel out skin surface reflections. of the nail , many reports conclude that there is an increased accuracy of diagnosis of nail tumors with dermoscopy compared to the naked eye .
Blood spots have a sharp, round-shaped proximal edge and a somewhat filamentous distal edge. Their color varies from purple-red in recent lesions to black-brown in older ones. They are observed in cases of traumaThis glossary term has not yet been described.-induced subungual hemorrhages but their diagnosis might be difficultneeding much effort or skill to accomplish if the trauma was not important enough to be remembered by the patient. This is typically the case with repetitive microtrauma-induced subungual hemorrhages of the toenail due to tight or badly fitting shapes. Blood spots are also observed in malignant tumors of the nail unit and their occurrence can be facilitated by anticoagulation or platelet antiaggregant therapy. Since bleeding can mask the clinical signs of an underlying tumorThis glossary term has not yet been described., reexamination of the patient after 4–6 months (remembering that subungual hemorrhages move distally about two-fold slower than the nail plate itself) is mandatory.
Brown background to the pigmentation
A brown background of the longitudinal band indicates that significant melanocyticThis glossary term has not yet been described. hyperplasia exists in the nail matrixThis glossary term has not yet been described.. This is observed in nail matrix neviThis glossary term has not yet been described. and pigmented melanomas. The color may vary from light brown to dark brown and even black. The darkness of the color usually reflects the skin typeThis glossary term has not yet been described. of the patient. Patients with Fitzpatrick’s skin types I, II and IIIa more often show a light brown coloration whereas types IIIb, IV, V and VI show a darker one.
Gray or gray-yellowish background to the pigmentation
On dermoscopy of the nail plate, gray color of the band generally indicates that no prominent melanocytic hyperplasia is present in the nail matrix. It is observed in many conditions: lentigo and lentiginoses of various types, ethnic-type pigmentation, drug-induced pigmentation, and repetitive trauma-induced (mostly frictional on toenails) pigmentation. Rarely, it may also be seen in very early cases of in situnot seen to be spreading from a localized position melanoma, justifying digital dermoscopyDermoscopy using digital images. This is used for telemedicine and monitoring. follow-up in doubtful cases. As in the skin, Bowenalso known as squamous cell carcinoma in situ is a neoplastic skin disease. It can be considered as an early stage or intraepidermal form of squamous cell carcinoma. It was named after John T. Bowen diseaseThis glossary term has not yet been described. (squamous cell carcinomaThis glossary term has not yet been described. in situ) can also be pigmented and in this case the coloration in dermoscopy is often gray rather than black, as also occurs in periungual Bowen disease. In these two latter cases, Bowen disease is regularly monodactylic whereas other conditions generally affect multiple nails.
When superimposed over a brown background, thin longitudinal micro-lines can be observed with dermoscopy and when their colorColor (American English) or colour (Commonwealth English) is the characteristic of human visual perception described through color categories, with names such as red, yellow, purple, or blue., thickness, spacing and parallelism are regular, whatever the depth of their color, which reflects the skin type of the patient, the pattern is called “regular”. This regular pattern is observed in benign melanocytic nevi of the nail matrix.
Irregular pattern of longitudinal parallel micro-lines
In contrast, when the color, thickness and spacing are irregular and vary from one area to another and when, usually in more advanced cases, areas of disruption of the parallelism are observed, the pattern is called “irregular”. It is the principal dermoscopic symptom of pigmented melanoma and its presence mandates a biopsy of the nail matrix.
Micro Hutchinson’s sign
Clinically Hutchinson’s sign is defined by the pigmentation of the periungual skin around a hyperpigmented nail plate. It is considered a warning sign highly suggestive of melanoma. It is also found in congenital neviis a type of melanocytic nevus (or mole) found in infants at birth. This type of birthmark occurs in an estimated 1% of infants worldwide; it is located in the area of the head and neck 15% of the time. of the nailThis glossary term has not yet been described.. It must not be confused with pseudo-Hutchinson’s sign which is visibility of the pigmented band of the nail plate through a translucent cuticle and which has no particular diagnostic significance. With dermoscopy, it is possible to observe very subtle pigmentation of the cuticle or of the submatrix, almost invisible to the naked eye, and called “micro” Hutchinson’s sign. In our experience, this rare sign is almost only observed in melanoma yet might be seen in atypical ethnic-type pigmentation and in congenital nevi of the nail unit.
Atypical Hutchinson’s sign
Atypical Hutchinson’s sign is defined by the presence of at least one of the two major dermoscopic criteriameasure of how well one variable or set of variables predicts an outcome for melanoma in acral sites in the periungual skin: parallel ridge patternVolar pigmentation forming lines, parallel, diffuse and irregular, along the ridges or cristae superficiales (raised portion of the dermatoglyphics) and/or irregular diffuse pigmentation. The parallel ridge pattern is only observed in the anterior aspect of the hands and posterior aspect of the feet distal to Wallace’s line that separates the palmarplantar skin (with fingerprints) from the glabrous skin. It is recognized by the presence of pigment in large parallel bands separated by a thin unpigmented parallel band. Hyperpigmentation of the (large) ridges of the fingerprints contrasting with the (thin) unpigmented furrows was first described in palm and sole melanoma by opposition with the hyperpigmentation of the (thin) furrows contrasting with the hypopigmentation of the (large) ridges that constitutes the hallmark of palm and sole nevi. In cases of nail unit melanoma, irregular diffuse pigmentation is more often found on the supramatricial skin whereas the parallel ridge pattern is only found on the finger/toetip, the pulp of the finger/toe or around the lateral nail folds.
Band-like white coloration of the plate is called leukonychia and yellow coloration called xanthonychia. These two colorsThis glossary term has not yet been described. are often observed simultaneously within the same lesion.
Band-like longitudinal splinter hemorrhages
Splinter hemorrhages are found in the nail in many conditions, including connective tissue diseases, onychotillomaniaThis glossary term has not yet been described., disorders of coagulation or nutrition and hematological disorders. In such cases, they are found on several nails and, on any one nail, involvement is not limited to only a part of the nail plate. When splinter hemorrhages, often in association with other signs such as leukoxanthonychia or polychromia, are limited to a band on the nail plate, an epithelial tumor of the nail matrix should be suspected. Splinter hemorrhages are also often associated with nail unit amelanotic melanomatype of skin cancer in which the cells do not make melanin yet their disposition is less systematized along the plate.
Longitudinal erythronychia with enlarged proximal origin
Cherry (senile) hemangiomas of the nail plate are not uncommon and their dermoscopic aspect is, in many cases, characterized as a longitudinal thin erythronychia with a clubbed proximal edge.
Localized subungual hyperkeratosis and distal triangular plate erosionThis glossary term has not yet been described.
Dermoscopic examination of the free edge of the nail plate at the distal extremity of a longitudinal abnormality, in most cases leukoxanthonychia often with splinter hemorrhages and not uncommonly with polychromia, often shows a localized subungual hyperkeratosis. This often indicates the presence of an epithelial tumor of the nail matrix (onychomatricomaThis glossary term has not yet been described., onychopapillomaThis glossary term has not yet been described., squamous cell carcinoma or seborrheic keratosisThis glossary term has not yet been described.). A triangular erosion of the distal nail table indicates the presence of a subungual tumoral syndrome, but the etiology cannot be predicted.
Atypical vesselsThis glossary term has not yet been described. 
In dermoscopy, an atypical pattern of the vessels is defined by at least one of the following criteria :
- presence of at least three different types of vessels (dots and globulesThis glossary term has not yet been described., comma-like, hairpin-like, linear, corkscrew-like, arborizing) within the same lesion
- presence of linear and irregular vessels (caliber changes from one segment to another of the same vessel)
- milky-red areas defined as structureless pink areas with various shades of pink without identified vascular structuresThis glossary term has not yet been described.. These areas are found in pyogenic granulomaThis glossary term has not yet been described. and in advanced amelanotic melanoma (the two being impossible to differentiate on the basis of clinical or dermoscopic examination so biopsy for histopathological examination is mandatory).
A yellow well-demarcated structureless round or ovoid spot is observed in subungual exostosisThis glossary term has not yet been described.. It is created by the pressure of the bone on the nail bed tissue underneath a firm plate.
Structureless red spots are observed in areas of nail plate erosion or through the nail plate. Their significance is close to “milky-red areas” and should lead to a biopsy to differentiate amelanotic melanoma from pyogenic granuloma.
A structureless purple or blue spot is observed through the nail plate mainly in two conditions: the extremely rare blue nevusis a type of melanocytic nevus that clinically and dermoscopically will appear blue of the nail unit and the very common glomus cell tumorThis glossary term has not yet been described.. In the latter, the pressure of the dermoscope on the nail plate can trigger the characteristic “electric” pain of this neoplasm.
Advanced dermoscopy techniques
Nail plate free edge examination
Examination of the nail plate free edge permits the observation of subungual localized hyperkeratosis in epithelial tumors of the nail matrix such as Bowen disease, squamous cell carcinoma, onychopapilloma, onychomatricoma and seborrheic keratosis. In onychomatricoma, its remarkable “dotted” free edge surface constitutes another criterion in favor of this diagnosis. In onychopapilloma, the sharp “spine-shaped” hyperkeratotic plug visible underneath the nail plate in the area of nail changes is also very helpful.
It is also of interest to dermoscopically examine the distal free edge of the nail plate in cases of melanonychia striata since the position of the pigment in the nail plate gives an interesting indication of the location of the pigmented lesion with the matrix (i.e. proximal versus distal matrix). Since the dorsal aspect of the nail plate is derived from the proximal matrix, the presence of the pigment in the upper part of the nail plate free edge will indicate the site of the causal lesion in the proximal part of the matrix. In contrast, the presence of pigment in the lower part of the nail plate will favor a distal matrix location of the causative lesion. Knowing or estimating the location of a pigmented lesion preoperatively is of tremendous importanceThis glossary term has not yet been described. in order to inform the patient of the possible esthetic consequences of the biopsy. A biopsy taken from the distal matrix will create a nail plate with an almost invisible defect from underneath whereas a biopsy of the proximal matrix will cause a visible defect of the nail plate surface.
Intraoperative non-contact polarized lightThis glossary term has not yet been described. dermoscopy of the nail matrix
With non-contact polarized light dermoscopy, it is possible to examine the nail matrix during the surgical biopsy procedure without risk of microbial contamination of either the exposed nail matrix or the sterile surgical instruments. In 2005 Hirata et al. proposed the perioperative examination of the nail matrix and described the streakslines radial (always at periphery) streaks Reed nevus melanoma recurrent nevus, pigment networkThis glossary term has not yet been described. and globules in the nail matrix and nail bed in conditions characterized by nail matrix melanocytic hyperplasia whereas diffuse homogeneous pigmentation was observed in conditions without prominent melanocytic hyperplasia of the nail matrix such as ethnic-type pigmentation, . Moreover, we consider that intraoperative dermoscopic examination of the nail bed and the nail matrix permits a more precise targeting of the biopsy than might occur with simple examination using the naked eye. This could also be applied in non-pigmentedThis glossary term has not yet been described. subungual tumors such as small squamous cell carcinoma, glomus cell tumor onychopapilloma or onychomatricoma. The same authors also proposed ex vivo dermoscopic examination of the nail matrix biopsy. This can be performed with contact immersionThis glossary term has not yet been described. dermoscopy and provides much sharper imagesA representation of a person, animal or thing, photographed, painted or otherwise made visible. with similar observations.
We must add that ex vivo reflectance confocal microscopic examination is also possible and allows detailed visualization at the cellular level. Indeed, additional work is badly needed to evaluate ex vivo reflectance confocal microscopic examination of nail matrix pigmented tumors.
Digital dermoscopyDermoscopy using digital images. This is used for telemedicine and monitoring. follow-up
On skin, dermoscopy has been proven efficient (level of proof “A”) to accurately distinguish melanoma from other pigmented lesions but its sensitivityThis glossary term has not yet been described. does not reach 100%. For this reason, digital follow-up of high-risk patients and of flat doubtful lesions has been developed. By sequential dermoscopic imaging of the lesion(s) and comparison of images over time, it permits determination of minor changes in shape, color or architecture of a given lesion, to allow an even earlier diagnosis of melanoma than would be possible with classic dermoscopy. Many publications have validated the concept of sequential dermoscopic imaging of cutaneous lesions in order to make a more accurate and precise diagnosis of melanoma (level of proof “B”) but even though the situation appears to be similar for nails, the value of digital sequential imaging of doubtful cases of melanonychia striata has not been yet evaluated in published prospective studies. However, we have some experience with sequential dermoscopy and believe that, in selected indications, digital follow-up of nail pigmentation could helpRefers to giving assistance or support to others for mutual benefit to demonstrate changes over time and therefore aid the diagnosis of suspected melanoma in patients in whom both clinical and dermoscopic criteria are at first insufficient to permit its positive diagnosis. Since the concept has not been established in large series, we will just briefly mention this technique here. However, it is our opinion that prospective large studies are definitively needed to better establish the role and impact of digital dermoscopy follow-up of nail pigmentation.
ReferencesThis is material contained in a footnote or bibliography holding further information.
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