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Combined nerve and muscle biopsy in the diagnosis of vasculitic neuropathy. A 16-year retrospective study of 202 cases

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We reviewed 202 biopsies performed on patients with suspected vasculitic neuropathy, of which 24 Churg-Strauss cases are studied separately. Specimens from the superficial peroneal nerve and peroneus brevis muscle were taken simultaneously by one incision. Without taking into account constitutional signs, systemic involvement was present in 131 patients, whereas the remaining 47 corresponded to non-systemic patients with lesions limited to peripheral nervous system and adjoining muscles. Diagnosis of panarteritis nodosa or microscopic polyangiitis, according to the size of involved vessels, was attested by an infiltration of vessel walls by inflammatory cells associated with fibrinoid necrosis or sclerosis. Microvasculitis was diagnosed when inflammatory infiltration concerned small vessels with few or no smooth-muscle fibers and without any necrosis. Microvasculitis was present in 11 of 46 non-systemic cases, and this predominance is statistically significant. Isolated perivascular cell infiltrates in the epineurium were considered not significant but allowed the diagnosis of ‘probable vasculitis’ if associated with at least one of the following features: regenerating small vessels, endoneurial purpura, asymmetric nerve fiber loss, and/or asymmetric acute axonal degeneration. Necrotizing vasculitis was visible in 60 cases: in nerve (16 cases), in muscle (19 cases), and both (25 cases). Microvasculitis was present in 25 cases: in nerve (19 cases), muscle (four cases), or both (two cases). Moreover, granulomatous vasculitis was found in the nerve of one non-systemic patient presenting also sarcoid granulomas in muscle. There were 24 ‘probable vasculitis’ and 68 negative cases. Muscle biopsy improved the yield of definite vasculitis by 27%.
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Keywords: axonopathy; microscopic polyangiitis; microvasculitis; panarteritis nodosa; vasculitis

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Neuropathology Laboratory; 2: Institut de Santé Publique, Epidémiologie et Développement; 3: Internal Medicine Department; and 4: Neurology Department, Victor Segalen University, Bordeaux, France

Publication date: March 1, 2006

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