Journal of Dermatology & Dermatologic Surgery

: 2022  |  Volume : 26  |  Issue : 3  |  Page : 11--14

A case of topical rapamycin effective for postsurgical hypertrophic scar of superficial lymphatic malformation with possible quality-of-life improvement

Yuki Isozaki, Motoi Kato, Naoko Fujita, Shota Tojo, Masahide Fujiki, Azusa Watanabe, Shoji Watanabe 
 Saitama Children's Medical Center, Chuo-ku, Saitama, Japan

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Yuki Isozaki
Saitama Children's Medical Center, 1-2, Shintoshin, Chuo-ku, Saitama 330-0081


Lymphatic malformation (LM) of the body surface causes symptoms such as bleeding, pain, lymphatic leakage, or infection of the lesion, usually treated with surgical resection and sclerotherapy, with limited efficacy. The vesicles of the body surface tend to recur after surgical resection and may cause lymphatic leakage, which could be long term a burden for patients, eventually decreasing their quality of life. In recent years, the efficacy of orally administered mammalian target of rapamycin inhibitor (rapamycin) has been reported for LM and other vascular anomalies but few are reported in the East Asian population. We report the case of a Japanese female with intractable gluteal LM that was successfully treated with topical rapamycin for postoperative recurrence and hypertrophic scarring.

How to cite this article:
Isozaki Y, Kato M, Fujita N, Tojo S, Fujiki M, Watanabe A, Watanabe S. A case of topical rapamycin effective for postsurgical hypertrophic scar of superficial lymphatic malformation with possible quality-of-life improvement.J Dermatol Dermatol Surg 2022;26:11-14

How to cite this URL:
Isozaki Y, Kato M, Fujita N, Tojo S, Fujiki M, Watanabe A, Watanabe S. A case of topical rapamycin effective for postsurgical hypertrophic scar of superficial lymphatic malformation with possible quality-of-life improvement. J Dermatol Dermatol Surg [serial online] 2022 [cited 2022 Dec 8 ];26:11-14
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Full Text


Lymphatic malformation (LM) can cause bleeding, pain, lymphatic leakage, or infection of the lesion.[1] Microcystic type with surface vesicles, also known as lymphangioma circumscriptum, could be intractable because of its limited response to classical treatments, such as surgical resection, which causes lymphatic leakage from recurred vesicles.[2] In such cases, patients have to live with the lesion for a long time.

In recent years, the mechanistic target of rapamycin, also known as the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, has also been implicated not only in the generation and propagation of vascular anomalies but also in the elevated levels of fibronectin and collagen in keloid.[3],[4],[5],[6] The efficacy of the mTOR inhibitor ramapycin (sirolimus) in the treatment of LM and other vascular anomalies has been reported.[7],[8] However, reports on topical rapamycin are rare. Thus, we report a case of effective use of topical rapamycin in postoperative scarring on the body surface, with a review of the literature.

 Case Report

A 12-year-old female patient presented with no relevant medical history except extensive microcystic-type LM, which had appeared in the left gluteal region during infancy and was confirmed by magnetic resonance imaging and biopsy. She had previously undergone sclerotherapy (OK-432) five times since she was 6 years old, with no effect. The lesion had slowly increased with the appearance of vesicles on the skin surface, and she experienced pain and lymphatic drainage from the vesicles during the next 4 years. To relieve the symptoms, partial resection of the skin lesion was conducted when she was 10 years of age. After surgical resection, the symptoms were relieved, but the vesicle recurred from the surgical scar 1 year later. Following a ½-year observation, the vesicle had not disappeared, but the surgical scar became hypertrophic.

Surgical intervention would evoke the recurrence of the symptom; we decided to treat the LM with topical rapamycin which were reported of the efficacy of both hypertrophic scar in vitro and lymphatic vesicles. The ointment was applied following the drug information for tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), topically twice daily on the lesion by parents. The patient was followed up regularly, and side effects and quality of life (QoL) were measured using the PedQL4.0®. The efficacy, side effects, and QoL were monitored. All procedures were approved by the Ethics Committee of Saitama Children's Medical Center, and informed consent was obtained from the patient.

The lesion improved gradually, vesicle volume decreased, and lymphatic drainage from vesicles disappeared after a month. The hypertrophic scar flattened after a month and reduced attenuation of color at 3 months [Figure 1]. The treatment was discontinued after 4 months because the patient was satisfied with the lesion improvement.{Figure 1}

The patient felt mild irritation locally at the 1st month examination, but it disappeared spontaneously after a few months. No other local nor systemic side effects detectable by blood examinations were observed.

The QoL assessment showed that the physical health summary scores were 100% for both the patient and the parents since the beginning. However, the psychosocial health summary score of the patient was depressed before the treatment, which improved up to 100% after the present topical treatment [Figure 2].{Figure 2}


LM and lymphatic vesicles decrease QoL by pain, lymphatic drainage, bleeding, and infection. The microcystic type of LM, especially, is known for poor response to sclerotherapy; even after surgical resection, the recurrence and the risk of organ damage make it difficult to treat. Other new therapies have been explored. Topical rapamycin might be effective for both lymphatic and hypertrophic scars.

Rapamycin is an mTOR inhibitor that regulates cellular catabolism and anabolism. It has been used as an immunosuppressive agent, lymphangioleiomyomatosis, antineoplastic agent, and TSC. It is also known to inhibit angiogenesis and keloid fibroblasts and is expected to be effective in treating vascular malformations, hypertrophic scars, and keloids, and its use as an oral drug is widely accepted in Western countries.

The efficacy of topical application of TSC has been previously reported. The advantages of topical application are that it can be expected to produce high concentrations of pharmacological effects locally, and the side effects are localized (skin dryness, irritation, and folliculitis),[9],[10] thus avoiding the systemic side effects of oral treatment (drug-induced pneumonitis, infection, and hypercholesterolemia).[11]

Reports of topical rapamycin application for microcystic LM have gradually increased since 2017,[12],[13] with six case reports, one multicenter case series, and one randomized controlled trial (phase 2) reported a total of 30 cases.[12],[13],[14],[15],[16],[17],[18],[19],[20] Except for one case report from Turkey, all other cases were reported from Europe and the United States, and there were no cases reported from East Asia, including Japan [Table 1]. (PubMed keyword search “topical and ramapycin and lymphatic malformation” January 18, 2021).{Table 1}

The most frequent symptoms were vesicles/lymphatic drainage (49%), pain (18%), infection (14%), and bleeding (14%), and efficacy was reported in 28 of 30 cases (93%). It was also effective for patients who had received prior local treatment, such as excision, sclerotherapy, cryotherapy, and laser therapy, with a rate of 89% (8 of 9 patients).

Side effects were reported in seven (23%) of the 30 patients,[12],[14],[15],[16],[17],[18] local irritation and discomfort were reported in all cases with side effects, as well as additional symptoms of swelling in one case (3%),[12] local eczema in one case (3%),[14] and xerosis in one case (3%).[17] In our case, there were no systemic symptoms, and local skin irritation was observed, which disappeared after a few months.

In contrast, although no clinical cases of hypertrophic scars have been reported, it has been observed that the thickness and length of scars in mouse models treated with topical 0.2% rapamycin were significantly smaller than those in control groups.[21] In our case, 0.2% rapamycin was used for thickened scars, which showed some improvement.

QoL in patients with vascular malformations tends to decrease, especially in severe cases of mixed vascular malformations, and psychosocial aspects need to be considered.[22] However, there are still few reports on the QoL of patients with LM alone. According to the QoL assessment of patients with Klippel-Trenaunay syndrome (KTS), a congenital mixed vascular malformation, the physical and social aspects of patients with relatively severe vascular malformations were inferior to those of the general population. However, the psychological aspects were reported to be similar to those of the general population due to emotional coping from early childhood.[22],[23] In the present case, contrary to the case of KTS, only a decrease in the patient's mental QoL was observed. It might be that the disease is relatively mild in childhood, with new symptoms appearing in adolescence. The patient may have to cope with new emotional issues, unlike severe cases, and since the lesion is less likely to be seen by her parents, the patient may feel alone. The improvement in QoL by applying the ointment may have the advantage of being a source of reassurance to the patient because of the simplicity of starting treatment without hospital admission.

In this case, quantitative evaluation before and after treatment was not performed, and objective evaluation of the treatment effect was lacking. However, we observed improvement in the gross findings and subjective symptoms of the patient, suggesting that topical treatment was effective. There is no clear evaluation of relapse after drug discontinuation in the literature, and the timing of drug discontinuation and resumption should be carefully considered.

In conclusion, topical rapamycin may be a relatively safe and effective therapeutic option for superficial LMs with hypertrophic scars. It might also help improve the patients' psychosocial side.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form, the patient has given her consent for her images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patient understands that name and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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