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Polyarteritis Nodosa
Katherine S. Upchurch, MD
Rajandeep S. Paik, MD
image BASICS
  • Polyarteritis nodosa (PAN) is an antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-negative necrotizing arteritis of medium or small arteries without glomerulonephritis or vasculitis of arterioles, capillaries, or venules (1).
  • Involved systems include GI tract, peripheral nervous system (sensory and motor), central nervous system (CNS), renal (without glomerulonephritis), skin, testes/epididymis, heart (1,2,3)
  • Features depend on location of vasculitis: mesenteric ischemia-related symptoms, new onset or worsening hypertension, mononeuritis multiplex, purpuric or nodular skin lesions, or livedo reticularis (3).
  • Renal disease in PAN usually manifests as hypertension (HTN) and mild proteinuria with/without azotemia. Renal infarction may occur (3).
  • PAN formerly encompassed several distinct entities (classic PAN, microscopic PAN, cutaneous PAN). With the advent of ANCA testing, microscopic PAN appears unrelated to the other two, pathophysiologically.
    • Patients with classic PAN are typically ANCA-negative (1,4).
    • Patients with microscopic PAN have ANCAs directed against myeloperoxidase (MPO) and (generally) involvement of small arterioles (microscopic polyangiitis [MPA]). This is now classified as ANCA-associated vasculitis (1).
    • Cutaneous (or limited) PAN is a chronic disease with cutaneous lesions with characteristic histopathologic features of PAN. There are few systemic manifestations, although myalgias and peripheral motor neuropathy (mononeuritis multiplex) or sensory neuropathy may be present. ANCA positivity is variable (5).
  • Synonym(s): periarteritis; panarteritis; necrotizing arteritis
  • Predominant age: Peak onset is in the 5th to 6th decade; incidence rises with age.
  • 1.5:1 male predominance (6)
Rare: 2 to 33 cases/1 million adults (6)
  • Segmental, transmural, necrotizing inflammation of medium and small muscular arteries, with intimal proliferation, thrombosis, and ischemia of the organ/tissue supplied by the affected arteries. Aneurysm formation at vessel bifurcations (3)
  • Hepatitis B-related PAN results in direct injury to the vessel due to viral replication or deposition of immune complexes, with complement activation and subsequent inflammatory response (3).
  • Most cases are idiopathic; 20% are related to hepatitis B or C infection (7).
  • In patients with PAN and hepatitis B, HBsAg has been recovered from involved vessel walls (7).
Mutations of adenosine deaminase 2 (ADA 2) have been identified in families with PAN (8).
Hepatitis B infection >> hepatitis C infection (cutaneous PAN) (7)
  • Hepatitis B (strong association with classic PAN) (7)
  • Hepatitis C (less strongly linked to cutaneous PAN)
  • Hairy cell leukemia
  • 27 existing case reports of systemic PAN following hepatitis B vaccination (9)
  • Minocycline (symptoms resolve on stopping drug, reoccur if rechallenged) (10)
  • Case reports also associating PAN with CMV infection, amphetamines, and interferon (11)
There are no formal diagnostic criteria for PAN (1,3). Suspect PAN in patients with the following:
  • Acute, sometimes fulminant multisystem disease with a relatively short prodrome (i.e., weeks to months)
  • Vasculitic skin rash with sensorimotor symptoms/findings
  • Recent-onset HTN with systemic symptoms
  • Unexplained sensory and/or motor neuropathy with systemic symptoms
  • Hepatitis B infection with multisystem disease
Related to involved organ system (may dominate clinical picture and course) (2,3)
  • Peripheral nervous system: peripheral neuropathy
  • Renal: HTN
  • Skin: purpura, urticaria, polymorphic rashes, subcutaneous nodules (uncommon, but characteristic), livedo reticularis; deep skin ulcers, especially in lower extremities; Raynaud phenomenon (rare); single digit gangrene (rare)
  • GI: acute abdomen; rebound, guarding, tenderness
  • CNS: seizures, altered mental status, papillitis
  • Lung: signs of pleural effusion—dullness to percussion; decreased breath sounds
  • Cardiac: signs of congestive heart failure and/or myocardial infarction—S3 gallop; pericarditis (friction rub is rare)
  • Genitourinary: testicular/epididymal tenderness (can mimic testicular torsion)
  • Musculoskeletal: arthritis (usually large joint in lower extremities)
  • Other forms of vasculitis (ANCA-associated, such as GPA, Churg-Strauss syndrome, and MPA; Henoch-Schönlein purpura, drug-induced vasculitis, cryoglobulinemia, Goodpasture syndrome)
  • Buerger disease
  • Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE)
  • Embolic disease (atrial myxoma, cholesterol emboli)
  • Thrombotic disease (antiphospholipid antibody syndrome)
  • Dissecting aneurysm
  • Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
  • Multiple sclerosis, systemic amyloidosis
  • Infection (subacute endocarditis, HIV infection, trichinosis, rickettsial diseases)
  • No specific laboratory abnormalities. Confirm diagnosis with biopsy if possible (4)[C].
  • Angiography (conventional, CT angiography, or MR angiography) may reveal microaneurysms and/or beading of bifurcating blood vessels.
  • Avoid contrast in renal disease.
  • Nonspecific laboratory abnormalities:
    • Elevated ESR and CRP
    • Mild proteinuria, elevated creatinine
    • Hepatitis B surface antigen positive in 10-50%
    • Hepatitis C antibody/hepatitis C virus RNA
    • ANCA, antiproteinase 3 (PR3), and anti-MPO are negative. Positive ANCA argues against PAN.
    • Rheumatoid factor may be positive.
    • Anemia of chronic disease (3,4)
Initial Tests (lab, imaging)
Lab tests performed to look for evidence of systemic disease and rule out other causes (3,4):
  • CBC, ESR, CRP (elevated) (4)[C]
  • Chemistries: elevated creatinine/BUN (4)[C]
  • Hepatitis B serology: often positive; hepatitis C less commonly positive
  • LFTs: abnormal if involving the liver/biliary tract
  • Urinalysis: proteinuria/hematuria, generally no cellular casts or active urinary sediment (4)[C]
  • ANA, cryoglobulins (4)[C]
  • ANCA, anti-MPO, and anti-PR3 (4)[A]
  • Complement levels (C3, C4)
  • Angiographic demonstration of aneurysmal changes/beading of small and medium-sized arteries
Diagnostic Procedures/Other
  • Electromyography and nerve conduction studies in patients with suspected mononeuritis multiplex. If abnormal, consider sural nerve biopsy.
  • Arterial/tissue biopsy
  • Skin biopsy from edges of ulcers; include deep dermis and subcutaneous (SC) fat to assess small muscular artery involvement (excisional not punch biopsy) (3,4)
Test Interpretation
  • Necrotizing inflammation with fibrinoid necrosis of small and medium-sized muscular arteries; segmental, often at bifurcations and branchings. Venules not involved in classic PAN.
  • Capillaritis/other lung parenchymal involvement by vasculitis strongly suggests another process (microscopic PAN, granulomatosis with polyangiitis [GPA; formerly known as Wegener granulomatosis], Churg-Strauss syndrome, or antiglomerular basement membrane disease).
  • Acute lesions with infiltration of polymorphonuclear cells through vessel walls into perivascular area; necrosis, thrombosis, infarction of involved tissue
  • Aneurysmal dilatations, including aortic dissection
  • Peripheral nerves: 50-70% (vasa nervorum with necrotizing vasculitis)
  • GI vessels: 50% (at autopsy) with bowel necrosis; gallbladder and appendix vasculature: 10%
  • Muscle vessels: 50%
  • P.819

  • Testicular vessels involved in symptomatic males
  • The key differences from other necrotizing vasculitides are lack of granuloma formation and sparing of veins and pulmonary arteries (2,3).
Aggressively treat HTN to prevent associated complications (stroke, myocardial infarction, heart failure)
First Line
  • Severe (life-threatening) disease: corticosteroids (CS) (high-dose prednisone, methylprednisolone, or parenteral Solu-Medrol) (4,10)[A]
    • Only 50% of patients achieve and maintain remission with CS. Other patients require additional immunosuppressive therapy.
    • Cyclophosphamide (CTX) in combination with CS: Improves survival and spares use of chronic steroids in moderate/severe PAN (4,10)[A].
      • CTX has risk of infertility and malignancy.
    • Plasma exchange for refractory and renal disease (4,7)[A]
    • Rituximab use for refractory disease suggested by its efficacy in ANCA + vasculitis (4,12,13)[C].
  • Less severe disease: CS alone ± other immunosuppressive agents (azathioprine, (4)[A] methotrexate, mycophenolate mofetil (4,10,14)[B])
  • HBV-associated PAN: antiviral agents, short-term CS, plasma exchange (7,10)[C]
Second Line
  • Tumor necrosis factor inhibitors anecdotally reported to be of use in PAN (15)
  • PAN disease activity correlates with serum IL-6 levels; tocilizumab, an inhibitor of IL-6 approved for use in rheumatoid arthritis; no evidence-based data for PAN (16).
  • For patients receiving IV CTX, concurrent administration of mercaptoethane sulfonate reduces bladder exposure to carcinogenic metabolites (4)[C].
  • Prophylactically treat patients on CTX for Pneumocystis jiroveci (carinii) pneumonia with trimethoprim sulfamethoxazole (use dapsone or atovaquone in intolerant/allergic patients) (4).
Admission Criteria/Initial Stabilization
Depends on extent and involvement of specific organs
Patient Monitoring
  • CBC, urinalysis, renal and hepatic function tests
  • Acute-phase reactants (e.g., ESR, CRP) may help monitor disease activity.
  • Be alert for the following:
    • Treatment specific side effects of CS and immunosuppressant medications
    • Delayed appearance of neoplasms after treatment, especially bladder malignancy in patients treated with CTX. (Check annual U/A, urinary cytology with urologic evaluation if microscopic hematuria.) (4)[C]
    • Steroid-induced osteoporosis
Low salt (HTN)
  • Patient education materials are available from the Arthritis Foundation, 1314 Spring St, NW, Atlanta, GA 30309; 800-283-7800
  • ACR website: www.rheumatology.org
  • Expected course of untreated PAN is poor, with an estimated 5-year survival of 13% (17).
  • Steroid and cytotoxic treatment increase 5-year survival rate to 75-80% (3,17).
  • Survival is greater for hepatitis B-related PAN as a result of the introduction of antiviral treatments (7).
  • Patients presenting with proteinuria, renal insufficiency, GI tract involvement, cardiomyopathy, or CNS involvement have a worse prognosis.
1. Jennette JC, Falk RJ, Bacon PA, et al. 2012 revised International Chapel Hill Consensus Conference Nomenclature of Vasculitides. Arthritis Rheum. 2013;65(1):1-11.
2. Ebert EC, Hagspiel KD, Nagar M, et al. Gastrointestinal involvement in polyarteritis nodosa. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2008;6(9):960-966.
3. Pagnoux C, Seror R, Henegar C, et al. Clinical features and outcomes in 348 patients with polyarteritis nodosa: a systematic retrospective study of patients diagnosed between 1963 and 2005 and entered into the French Vasculitis Study Group Database. Arthritis Rheum. 2010;62(2):616-626.
4. Mukhtyar C, Guillevin L, Cid MC, et al. EULAR recommendations for the management of primary small and medium vessel vasculitis. Ann Rheum Dis. 2009;68(3):310-317.
5. Nakamura T, Kanazawa N, Ikeda T, et al. Cutaneous polyarteritis nodosa: revisiting its definition and diagnostic criteria. Arch Dermatol Res. 2009;301(1):117-121.
6. Phillip R, Luqmani R. Mortality in systemic vasculitis: a systematic review. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2008;26(5)(Suppl 51):S94-S104.
7. Guillevin L, Mahr A, Callard P, et al. Hepatitis B virus-associated polyarteritis nodosa: clinical characteristics, outcome, and impact of treatment in 115 patients. Medicine (Baltimore). 2005;84(5):313-322.
8. Navon Elkan P, Pierce SB, Segel R, et al. Mutant adenosine deaminase 2 in a polyarteritis nodosa vasculopathy. N Engl J Med. 2014;370(10):921-931.
9. de Carvalho JF, Pereira RM, Shoenfeld Y. Systemic polyarteritis nodosa following hepatitis B vaccination. Eur J Intern Med. 2008;19(8):575-578.
10. Culver B, Itkin A, Pischel K. Case report and review of minocycline-induced cutaneous polyarteritis nodosa. Arthritis Rheum. 2005;53(3):468-470.
11. Bourgarit A, Le Toumelin P, Pagnoux C, et al. Deaths occurring during the first year after treatment onset for polyarteritis nodosa, microscopic polyangiitis, and Churg-Strauss syndrome: a retrospective analysis of causes and factors predictive of mortality based on 595 patients. Medicine (Baltimore). 2005;84(5):323-330.
12. de Menthon M, Mahr A. Treating polyarteritis nodosa: current state of the art. Clin Exp Rheumatol. 2011;29(1)(Suppl 4):S110-S116.
13. Stone JH, Merkel PA, Spiera R, et al. Rituximab versus cyclophosphamide for ANCA-associated vasculitis. N Engl J Med. 2010;363(3):221-232.
14. Specks U, Merkel PA, Seo P, et al. Efficacy of remission-induction regimens for ANCA-associated vasculitis. N Engl J Med. 2013;369(5):417-427.
15. Ribi C, Cohen P, Pagnoux C, et al. Treatment of polyarteritis nodosa and microscopic polyangiitis without poor-prognosis factors: a prospective randomized study of one hundred twenty-four patients. Arthritis Rheum. 2010;62(4):1186-1197.
16. Chan M, Lugmani R. Pharmacotherapy of vasculitis. Expert Opin Pharmacother. 2009;10(8):1273-1289.
17. Murakami M, Nishimoto N. The value of blocking IL-6 outside of rheumatoid arthritis: current perspective. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2011;23(3):273-277.
Additional Reading
Kouchi M, Sato S, Kamono M, et al. A case of polyarteritis nodosa associated with cytomegalovirus infection. Case Rep Rheumatol. 2014;2014:604874.
See Also
Hepatitis B; Hepatitis C
  • M30.0 Polyarteritis nodosa
  • M30.1 Polyarteritis with lung involvement [Churg-Strauss]
  • M30.8 Other conditions related to polyarteritis nodosa
Clinical Pearls
  • PAN is a necrotizing vasculitis of small- to mediumsized muscular arteries with lack of granuloma formation that spares veins and pulmonary arteries.
  • Clinical features of PAN depend on target organ involvement.
  • Skin biopsies at ulcer edges (include deep dermis and SC fat) improve diagnostic yield.
  • Check hepatitis B and C serologies.
  • ANCA is negative in classic PAN.
  • Treatment involves immunosuppression; choice of agent depends on extent and severity of disease.