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Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2000 Aug;30(1):33-46.

Sarcoidosis and systemic vasculitis.

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  • 1Department of Rheumatic and Immunologic Diseases and the Center for Vasculitis Care and Research, Cleveland Clinic Foundation, OH, USA.



Systemic vasculitis is an unusual complication of sarcoidosis. Over a 10-year period, the authors have provided care for six patients who had features of both sarcoidosis and vasculitis. Vasculitis could not be attributed to other causes.


To report six patients (five children) who had sarcoidosis and systemic vasculitis and compare our experience with previous literature. To better delineate the clinical spectrum of sarcoid vasculitis and its response to therapy.


Retrospective analysis and a Medline literature review of sarcoid and concurrent vasculitis from 1966.


Our six patients had systemic illnesses that included fever, peripheral adenopathy, hilar adenopathy, rash, pulmonary parenchymal disease, musculoskeletal symptoms, and scleritis or iridocyclitis. Biopsies revealed features compatible with the diagnosis of sarcoidosis or necrotizing sarcoid granulomata in either skin, lymph node, lung, synovium, bone, bone marrow, liver, trachea, or sclera. Arteriography showed features of large vessel vasculitis in three patients, all of whom were African American, whereas patients with small vessel vasculitis were white. Prior reports of sarcoid and vasculitis included 14 adults, of whom half had predominantly small vessel disease, and half had medium- or large-sized vessel disease. Eight previously reported children included seven with primarily large vessel sarcoid vasculitis. Racial background was noted in 15 reported cases and included whites (6), African Americans (5), and Asians (4). Among the authors' six patients, four improved when treated with prednisone alone. However, relapses occurred when the drug was tapered or withdrawn.


Sarcoidosis may be complicated by systemic vasculitis that can affect small- to large-caliber vessels. Sarcoid vasculitis can mimic hypersensitivity vasculitis, polyarteritis nodosa, microscopic polyangiitis, or Takayasu's arteritis. African American and Asian patients are disproportionately represented among cases with large vessel involvement. Corticosteroid and cytotoxic therapy is palliative for all forms of sarcoid vasculitis. However, relapses and morbidity from disease and treatment is common.

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