Vasculitis mimics

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Purpose of review

There are many disorders that may closely resemble the clinical, radiologic and/or pathologic features of the primary vasculitides. In this review, we focus on recently described and under-recognized syndromes that may mimic vasculitis.

Recent findings

Hereditary causes of large-artery aneurysms such as Marfan's syndrome have long been recognized; recent years have seen a greater understanding of the genetics of Marfan's and other such disorders, including Loeys–Dietz syndrome and Ehler–Danlos syndrome type IV. Under-recognized mimics of medium-vessel vasculitis include segmental arterial mediolysis and Grange syndrome. A large number of entities can mimic small-vessel vasculitis. Recent descriptions of antibodies to human neutrophil elastase have provided insight into the occurrence of antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies in cocaine-induced midline destructive lesions. The differential diagnosis of cerebral vasculitis can be particularly difficult. Reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndromes represent an important class of entities that can readily mimic cerebral vasculitis but have a very different management approach and outcome.


The diagnosis of vasculitis requires careful assessment of all available clinical, laboratory, radiologic and pathologic information, and consideration of many competing differential diagnoses. Awareness of noninflammatory mimics of vasculitis is essential to avoid unnecessary and potentially harmful treatment with immunosuppressive agents.

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