Polyarteritis nodosa

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Polyarteritis nodosa
Kussmaul Maier Makro.jpg
Polyarteritis nodosa: Macroscopic specimen of the heart with abundant adipose tissue and nodular thickened coronary vessels
Classification and external resources
Specialty immunology, rheumatology
ICD-10 M30.0
ICD-9-CM 446.0
DiseasesDB 10220
MedlinePlus 001438
MeSH D010488

Polyarteritis nodosa, also known as panarteritis nodosa,[1] periarteritis nodosa,[1] Kussmaul disease, Kussmaul-Maier disease[2] or PAN, is a systemic vasculitis of small- or medium-sized muscular arteries, typically involving renal and visceral vessels but sparing the pulmonary circulation.[3] Polyarteritis nodosa may present in infants.[4] In polyarteritis nodosa, small aneurysms are strung like the beads of a rosary,[5] therefore making "rosary sign" an important diagnostic feature of the vasculitis.[6]

With treatment, five-year survival is 80%; without treatment, five-year survival is 13%. Death is often a consequence of kidney failure, myocardial infarction, or stroke.[7]

Signs and symptoms[edit]

In this disease, symptoms result from ischemic damage to affected organs, often the skin, heart, kidneys, and nervous system. Generalised symptoms include fever, fatigue, weakness, loss of appetite, and weight loss. Muscle and joint aches are common. The skin may show rashes, swelling, ulcers, and lumps.[citation needed] Palpable purpura and livedo reticularis can occur in some patients.

Nerve involvement may cause sensory changes with numbness, pain, burning, and weakness (peripheral neuropathy). Central nervous system involvement may cause strokes or seizures. Kidney involvement can produce varying degrees of kidney failure, such as hypertension, edema, oliguria, and uremia.[citation needed] Involvement of the arteries of the heart may cause a heart attack, heart failure, and inflammation of the sac around the heart (pericarditis).


There is no association with ANCA, but about 30% of people with PAN have chronic hepatitis B and deposits containing HBsAg-HBsAb complexes in affected vessels, indicating an immune complex–mediated cause in that subset. The cause remains unknown in the remaining cases; there may be causal and clinical distinctions between classic idiopathic PAN, the cutaneous forms of PAN, and the PAN associated with chronic hepatitis.[3]


Microscopic findings in polyarteritis nodosa: nodular thickened and branched arteries from small bowel mucosa (Fig. 1), flexor digitorum superficialis artery with early diffuse nuclear proliferation (X155; Fig. 2), nodular thickened and aneurysmal expanded artery: (a) tunica intima, (b) tunica media, (c) tunica adventitia, (d) newly formed connective tissue and fat (Fig. 3; X155)

No specific lab tests exist for diagnosing polyarteritis nodosa. Diagnosis is generally based on the physical examination and a few laboratory studies that help confirm the diagnosis:

  • CBC (may demonstrate an elevated white blood count)
  • ESR (elevated)
  • Perinuclear pattern of antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (p-ANCA) - not associated with "classic" polyarteritis nodosa, but is present in a form of the disease affecting smaller blood vessels, known as microscopic polyangiitis or leukocytoclastic angiitis
  • Tissue biopsy (reveals inflammation in small arteries, called arteritis)
  • Elevated C-reactive protein

A patient is said to have polyarteritis nodosa if he or she has three of the 10 signs known as the 1990 American College of Rheumatology (ACR)[8] criteria, when a radiographic or pathological diagnosis of vasculitis is made:

  • Weight loss greater than/equal to 4.5 kg
  • Livedo reticularis (a mottled purplish skin discoloration over the extremities or torso)
  • Testicular pain or tenderness (occasionally, a site biopsied for diagnosis)
  • Muscle pain, weakness, or leg tenderness
  • Nerve disease (either single or multiple)
  • Diastolic blood pressure greater than 90 mmHg (high blood pressure)
  • Elevated kidney blood tests (BUN greater than 40 mg/dl or creatinine greater than 1.5 mg/dl)
  • Hepatitis B (not C) virus tests positive (for surface antigen or antibody)
  • Arteriogram (angiogram) showing the arteries that are dilated (aneurysms) or constricted by the blood vessel inflammation
  • Biopsy of tissue showing the arteritis (typically inflamed arteries):[9] The sural nerve is a frequent location for the biopsy.
In polyarteritis nodosa, small aneurysms are strung like the beads of a rosary, therefore making "rosary sign" a diagnostic feature of the vasculitis.

In polyarteritis nodosa, small aneurysms are strung like the beads of a rosary,[5] therefore making "rosary sign" an important diagnostic feature of the vasculitis.[6] The 1990 ACR criteria were designed for classification purposes only. Nevertheless, their good discriminatory performances, indicated by the initial ACR analysis, suggested their potential usefulness for diagnostic purposes as well. Subsequent studies did not confirm their diagnostic utility, demonstrating a significant dependence of their discriminative abilities on the prevalence of the various vasculitides in the analyzed populations. Recently, an original study, combining the analysis of more than 100 items used to describe patients' characteristics in a large sample of vasculitides with a computer simulation technique designed to test the potential diagnostic utility of the various criteria, proposed a set of eight positively or negatively discriminating items to be used as a screening tool for diagnosis in patients suspected of systemic vasculitis.[10]


Treatment involves medications to suppress the immune system, including prednisone and cyclophosphamide. In some cases, methotrexate or leflunomide may be helpful.[11] Some patients have also noticed a remission phase when a four-dose infusion of rituximab is used before the leflunomide treatment is begun. Therapy results in remissions or cures in 90% of cases. Untreated, the disease is fatal in most cases. The most serious associated conditions generally involve the kidneys and gastrointestinal tract. A fatal course usually involves gastrointestinal bleeding, infection, myocardial infarction, and/or kidney failure.[12]

In case of remission, about 60% experience relapse within five years.[13] In cases caused by hepatitis B virus, however, recurrence rate is only around 6%.[14]


The condition affects adults more frequently than children and males more frequently than females. Most cases occur between the ages of 30 and 49. It damages the tissues supplied by the affected arteries because they do not receive enough oxygen and nourishment without a proper blood supply.[citation needed] Polyarteritis nodosa is more common in people with hepatitis B infection.[15]

In popular media[edit]

The 1956 film Bigger Than Life featured the protagonist being diagnosed with polyarteritis nodosa.


  1. ^ a b Rapini, Ronald P.; Bolognia, Jean L.; Jorizzo, Joseph L. (2007). Dermatology: 2-Volume Set. St. Louis: Mosby. ISBN 1-4160-2999-0. 
  2. ^ synd/764 at Who Named It?
  3. ^ a b Kumar, Vinay; K. Abbas, Abul; C. Aster, Jon (2015). Robbins and Cotran: Pathologic Basis of Disease (9th ed.). Elsevier. p. 509. ISBN 978-1-4557-2613-4. 
  4. ^ Person, A, Donald (2006-06-15). "Infantile Polyarteritis Nodosa". eMedicine. WebMD. Retrieved 24 December 2009. 
  5. ^ a b Keen, William. Surgery, Volume 5. W. B. Saunders. p. 243. 
  6. ^ a b Greenson, Joel K.; Montgomery, Elizabeth A.; Polydorides, Alexandros D. (1 September 2009). Diagnostic Pathology: Gastrointestinal: Published by Amirsys. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. ISBN 978-1-931884-26-6. Retrieved 19 August 2013. 
  7. ^ Russell Goodman; Paul F. Dellaripa; Amy Leigh Miller; Joseph Loscalzo (January 2, 2014). "An Unusual Case of Abdominal Pain". N Engl J Med. 370 (1): 70–75. doi:10.1056/NEJMcps1215559. 
  8. ^ American College of Rheumatology
  9. ^ Shiel, Jr., William C, http://www.medicinenet.com/polyarteritis_nodosa/article.htm
  10. ^ Henegar, Corneliu; Pagnoux, Christian; Puéchal, Xavier; Zucker, Jean-Daniel; Bar-Hen, Avner; Guern, Véronique Le; Saba, Mona; Bagnères, Denis; Meyer, Olivier; Guillevin, Loïc (1 May 2008). "A paradigm of diagnostic criteria for polyarteritis nodosa: Analysis of a series of 949 patients with vasculitides". Arthritis & Rheumatism. 58 (5): 1528–1538. doi:10.1002/art.23470. PMID 18438816. 
  11. ^ Boehm, Ingrid; Bauer, R (1 February 2000). "Low-Dose Methotrexate Controls a Severe Form of Polyarteritis Nodosa". Archives of Dermatology. 136 (2): 167–9. doi:10.1001/archderm.136.2.167. PMID 10677090. 
  12. ^ Giannini, AJ; Black, HR. Psychiatric, Psychogenic and Somatopsychic Disorders Handbook. Garden City, NY. Medical Examination Publishing, 1978. Pp. 219–220. ISBN 0-87488-596-5
  13. ^ Selga, D.; Mohammad, A.; Sturfelt, G.; Segelmark, M. (2006). "Polyarteritis nodosa when applying the Chapel Hill nomenclature--a descriptive study on ten patients". Rheumatology. 45 (10): 1276–1281. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/kel091. PMID 16595516. [1], Entry in Polyarteritis Nodosa Follow-up article
  14. ^ Guillevin, L.; Lhote, F.; Cohen, P.; Sauvaget, F.; Jarrousse, B.; Lortholary, O.; Noël, L.; Trépo, C. (1995). "Polyarteritis nodosa related to hepatitis B virus. A prospective study with long-term observation of 41 patients". Medicine. 74 (5): 238–253. doi:10.1097/00005792-199509000-00002. PMID 7565065.  [2], Entry in Polyarteritis Nodosa Follow-up article
  15. ^ Erhardt A, Sagir A, Guillevin L, Neuen-Jacob E, Häussinger D (October 2000). "Successful treatment of hepatitis B virus associated polyarteritis nodosa with a combination of prednisolone, alpha-interferon and lamivudine". J. Hepatol. 33 (4): 677–83. doi:10.1034/j.1600-0641.2000.033004677.x. PMID 11059878. 

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