Differentiating Polyarteritis nodosa from other diseases

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Editor-In-Chief: C. Michael Gibson, M.S., M.D. [1]; Associate Editor(s)-in-Chief: Eiman Ghaffarpasand, M.D. [2]


Polyarteritis nodosa must be differentiated from other diseases that cause may lead to medium vessel vasculitis. The diseases that can lead to medium vessel vasculitis are polyarteritis nodosa, kawasaki disease, infections, cardiovascular diseases and systemic diseases.

Differentiating Polyarteritis Nodosa from other Diseases

  • The following table differentiates polyarteritis nodosa from other diseases that may lead to medium vessel vasculitis.

Abbreviations: ABG= Arterial blood gas, ANA= Antinuclear antibody, ANP= Atrial natriuretic peptide, ASO= Antistreptolysin O antibody, BNP= Brain natriuretic peptide, CBC= Complete blood count, COPD= Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, CRP= C-reactive protein, CT= Computed tomography, CXR= Chest X-ray, DVT= Deep vein thrombosis, ESR= Erythrocyte sedimentation rate, HRCT= High Resolution CT, IgE= Immunoglobulin E, LDH= Lactate dehydrogenase, PCWP= Pulmonary capillary wedge pressure, PCR= Polymerase chain reaction, PFT= Pulmonary function test.

Diseases Clinical manifestations Para-clinical findings Gold standard Additional findings
Symptoms Physical examination
Lab Findings Imaging Histopathology
Headache Fever Weight loss Arthralgia Claudication Bruit HTN Focal neurological disorder Biomarker CBC ESR Other CT scan Angiography Ultrasound/ Echocardiography Other
Polyarteritis nodosa[1] + + + + + + +/- +/- LAMP-2 protein autoantibodies Leukocytosis, Normochromic anemia, Thrombocytosis Cr or BUN,

ALT or AST, Proteinuria

Focal regions of infarction or hemorrhage Multiple microaneurysms, Hemorrhage due to focal rupture, Occlusion Aneurysms and renal arteriovenous fistula in color Doppler sonography - Necrotizing inflammatory lesions Angiography Sudden weight loss, Abdominal pain
Hepatitis B virus-associated polyarteritis nodosa[2] +/- +/- + + +/- +/- + - HBsAg Leukocytosis, Normochromic anemia, Thrombocytosis ALT or AST Focal regions of infarction or hemorrhage Microaneurysms in mesenteric artery Aneurysms and renal arteriovenous fistula in color Doppler sonography - Necrotizing inflammatory lesions Angiography Peripheral neuropathy, Livedo reticularis
Kawasaki disease[3] - + +/- + + - +/- - NT-proBNP, Meprin A, Filamin C Normochromic anemia, ↑WBC with a left shift, Thrombocytosis  Acute-phase reactants, ↓Cholesterol, ↓HDL, ↓ApolipoA Coronary artery calcifications Coronary artery aneurysms, stenosis or occlusion Coronary artery anomaly in echocardiography Electron beam CT (EBCT) Acute destruction of the media by neutrophils, with loss of elastic fibers History and physical examination Diarrhea, Vomiting
Infectious disease Parvovirus B19 infection[4] + + + + - - - +/- B19 DNA, ↓Reticulocyte count Anemia anti–parvovirus B19 IgM - - Hydrops in fetal ultrasonography - - B19 DNA Purpuric rash, Erythema multiforme
Scarlet fever[5] + + +/- + - - - - Antistreptolysin-O (ASO) titers Leukocytosis CRP Thickened pulmonary markings if pneumonia - - - Sparse neutrophilic perivascular infiltrate History and physical examination Sand-paper rashes, Sore throat
Toxic shock syndrome[6] + + + + - - - +/- Procalcitonin Leukocytosis with left shift Myoglobinuria, Sterile pyuria Acute respiratory distress syndrome - - - Necrolysis of keratinocytes in epidermis, Perivascular lymphocytic infiltrate Clinical criteria Peeling or rashes, Organ dysfunction
Mononucleosis[7] + + + + - - - - EBV DNA Atypical lymphocyte Heterophile antibodies CNS involvement - Splenomegaly Encephalitis in MRI Lymphoproliferative response in oropharynx, Lymphocytic infiltration in spleen Heterophile antibody test Splenomegaly, Palatal petechiae
Leptospirosis[8] + + + + +/- - - - IL-6, IL-8 and IL-10 Anemia - Cr or BUN,

ALT or AST, Proteinuria

 Diffuse alveolar hemorrhage - - - Toxin-mediated break down of endothelial cell membranes of capillaries Culture and the microscopic agglutination test Red eyes, Skin rash
Lyme Disease[9] +/- + +/- + +/- - - - CXCL9 (MIG), CXCL10 (IP-10) and CCL19 (MIP3B) Leukopenia, Thrombocytopenia - Microscopic hematuria, Proteinuria, ↑ALT or AST Punctate lesions in periventricular white matter in brain SPECT - - - Acrodermatitis chronica atrophicans Serologic tests Erythema migrans
Measles[10] +/- + +/- + - - - - Measles IgM Leukopenia, Lymphocytosis, Thrombocytopenia - ALT or AST Pneumonia - - CXR Spongiosis and vesiculation in the epidermis with scattered dyskeratotic keratinocytes PCR Generalized rash, Cough, Coryza, or Conjunctivitis
Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever[11] + + + + - - - - R rickettsii serology Thrombocytopenia, Anemia  - ALT or AST, Hyponatremia Infarction, edema, and meningeal enhancement - Myocardial or conduction abnormalities in echocardiography - Immunofluorescent or immunoperoxidase staining of R rickettsii Clinical criteria and tick exposure Rash on the palms and soles
Staphylococcal Scalded Skin Syndrome[12] + + + + - - +/- +/- Anti exfoliatin and anti alpha-toxin antibodies Leukocytosis with left shift Blood culture Pneumonia - - - Intraepidermal blister, dense superficial perivascular lymphohistiocytic infiltrate  Blood culture and clinical findings Widespread skin erythema, fluid-filled blisters
Toxic Epidermal Necrolysis[13] - + + - - - - +/- MicroRNA-124 Normochromic normocytic anemia, Eosinophilia Fluid loss and electrolyte abnormalities Tracheobronchial inflammation - - - Necrotic keratinocytes with full-thickness epithelial necrosis Histopathology and clinical findings Erythematous macular rash with purpuric centers
Cardiovascular disease Atrial Myxoma[14] - - +/- - - - - +/- Calretinin Mild anemia, Leukocytosis IL-6 Atrial filling defect larger than a thrombus - Tumor location, size, attachment, and mobility in echocardiography Size, shape, and surface characteristics in MRI Lipidic cells embedded in a vascular myxoid stroma Echocardiography Dyspnea on exertion, Syncope
Cholesterol Embolism[15] +/- +/- - - + - - + IL-5 Eosinophilia, Leukocytosis   Eosinophiluria Thoracic and abdominal aortic sources of embolism Atheroembolism in abdominal aorta and the lower extremity arteries Excluding an intracardiac source of embolism with echocardiography  - Birefringent crystals or biconvex needle-shaped ghostly clefts within the arterial lumen Angiography  Livedo reticularis,

Ischemic patches

Segmental arterial mediolysis[16] + - - - + + + +/- - Leukocytosis - - Visceral artery aneurysm in CT angiography Alternating aneurysms and stenoses (beading) Retroperitoneal hematoma - Disruption of the smooth muscle in the media Angiography  Hematuria, Ischemic colitis
Systemic disease Antiphospholipid Syndrome[17] + + - - - - - +/- Antiphospholipid antibodies Thrombocytopenia, Hemolytic anemia - Lupus anticoagulant (LA) Stroke,

Pulmonary embolism, Budd-Chiari syndrome

Thrombus in major vessels Valve thickening, vegetations, or insufficiency in echocardiography - Noninflammatory bland thrombosis without perivascular inflammation Hx of thrombosis and antiphospholipid antibodies Miscarriage, Pulmonary hypertension
Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis[18] - - - + +/- - - - Rheumatoid factor (RF), S100A12 Lymphocytosis, Thrombocytopenia Myeloid-related proteins 8/14 (MRP8/14) Synovial hypertrophy, Joint effusions Cerebral vasculitis Inflamed synovium Bone scanning Vascular congestion, RBC extravasation, Venular lumen occlusion Conventional radiography Evanescent rash, Dactylitis 


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  6. Vostral SL (2011). "Rely and Toxic Shock Syndrome: a technological health crisis". Yale J Biol Med. 84 (4): 447–59. PMC 3238331. PMID 22180682.
  7. Balfour HH, Dunmire SK, Hogquist KA (2015). "Infectious mononucleosis". Clin Transl Immunology. 4 (2): e33. doi:10.1038/cti.2015.1. PMC 4346501. PMID 25774295.
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  15. Avci G, Akoz T, Gul AE (2009). "Cutaneous cholesterol embolization". J Dermatol Case Rep. 3 (2): 27–9. doi:10.3315/jdcr.2009.1031. PMC 3157794. PMID 21886725.
  16. Chao, Christine (2009). "Segmental Arterial Mediolysis". Seminars in Interventional Radiology. 26 (03): 224–232. doi:10.1055/s-0029-1225666. ISSN 0739-9529.
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