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Autoimmun Rev. 2013 Feb;12(4):496-500. doi: 10.1016/j.autrev.2012.08.009. Epub 2012 Aug 24.

Cocaine-induced midline destructive lesions - an autoimmune disease?

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Department of Otorhinolaryngology, San Raffaele Scientific Institute, Milan, Italy, IRCCS.

Erratum in

  • Autoimmun Rev. 2015 Feb;14(2):181.


In Europe it is estimated that around 13million of adults (15-64years) have used cocaine at least once in their lifetime. The most frequently used route of administration for the drug is intranasal inhalation, or "snorting", and thus the adverse effects of cocaine on the nasal tract are very common. Habitual nasal insufflations of cocaine may cause mucosal lesions, and if cocaine use becomes chronic and compulsive, progressive damage of the mucosa and perichondrium leads to ischemic necrosis of septal cartilage and perforation of the nasal septum. Occasionally, cocaine-induced lesions cause extensive destruction of the osteocartilaginous structures of nose, sinuses and palate that can mimic other diseases such as tumors, infections, and immunological diseases. Thorough diagnostic workup, including endoscopic, radiologic, histopathologic and serologic testing is imperative to arrive at the proper diagnosis and to initiate appropriate local and systemic treatment. Positive antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA) test results may be found in an unexpectedly large proportion of patients with CIMDL. In several instances their lesions are clinically indistinguishable from granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener's) limited to the upper respiratory tract. CIMDL seem to be the result of a necrotizing inflammatory tissue response triggered by cocaine abuse in a subset of patients predisposed to produce ANCA, particularly those reacting with HNE. The presence of these HNE-ANCA seems to promote or define the disease phenotype. CIMDL do not respond well to immunosuppressive therapy. Only the consistent removal of persistent stimuli of autoantibody production (cocaine, bacterial superinfections) can halt the disease process, prevent the progression of the lesions and promise success of surgical repair procedures.

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