Indian Journal of Dermatology
  Publication of IADVL, WB
  Official organ of AADV
Indexed with Science Citation Index (E) , Web of Science and PubMed
Users online: 2718  
Home About  Editorial Board  Current Issue Archives Online Early Coming Soon Guidelines Subscriptions  e-Alerts    Login  
    Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size Print this page Email this page

Table of Contents 
Year : 2014  |  Volume : 59  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 498-501
Lymphocytic thrombophilic arteritis: An enigma

1 Department of Pathology, St. John's Medical College, Bangalore, India
2 Skin and Cosmetology Centre, Bangalore, India

Date of Web Publication1-Sep-2014

Correspondence Address:
Rajalakshmi Tirumalae
Associate Professor, Department of Pathology, St. John's Medical College, Bangalore 560 034
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5154.139907

Rights and Permissions


A 55-year-old woman presented with a 5-year history of livedo racemosa on her limbs. Histology showed vasculitis of medium-sized arteries with a circumferential, hyalinised, intraluminal fibrin ring. Her laboratory investigations did not indicate any underlying systemic disease. The findings were consistent with lymphocytic thrombophilic arteritis (LTA), alias macular arteritis, which is a recently described entity. The importance of LTA lies in the fact that it is a close clinical and microscopic mimic of polyarteritis nodosa (PAN). LTA is believed to be a distinct entity by some and as a form of PAN by others. We have discussed this case in our report.

Keywords: Cutaneous polyarteritis nodosa, livedo racemosa, lymphocytic thrombophilic arteritis, macular arteritis

How to cite this article:
Kalegowda IY, Tirumalae R, Murthy K S, Rout P. Lymphocytic thrombophilic arteritis: An enigma. Indian J Dermatol 2014;59:498-501

How to cite this URL:
Kalegowda IY, Tirumalae R, Murthy K S, Rout P. Lymphocytic thrombophilic arteritis: An enigma. Indian J Dermatol [serial online] 2014 [cited 2022 Dec 5];59:498-501. Available from:

What was known?
Cutaneous polyarteritis nodosa (CPAN) is an indolent medium vessel vasculitis that spares the viscera. The recently described macular arteritis or lymphocytic thrombophilis arteritis overlaps clinically and microscopically with CPAN. There have been no cases reported from India so far.

   Introduction Top

Lymphocytic thrombophilic arteritis (LTA) is a newly described medium vessel arteritis of the skin. [1] LTA commonly presents as hyperpigmented macules and runs an indolent clinical course. It overlaps considerably with polyarteritis nodosa (PAN), but lacks systemic features. To the best of our knowledge, this has not been reported from India so far.

   Case Report Top

A 53-year-old south Indian lady presented with a 5-year history of reddish patches over both lower limbs and arms. Since past 10 days, they were mildly itchy and painful. The lesions first started on the lower limb as small red patches, which slowly increased in size and healed with residual hyperpigmentation. The lesions were present on and off and had no aggravating or relieving factors. The patient had no history of drug intake. She applied topical creams for the past 3-4 months, without any benefit. The patient did not have diabetes mellitus, hypertension, or symptoms of systemic involvement. She did not smoke. Her obstetric history was uneventful.

On examination, there were multiple erythematous patches and hyperpigmented macules associated with livedo racemosa on both legs and arms [Figure 1]a and b]. On palpation, focal areas of mild induration were noted, but no nodules were palpable. There was no evidence of limb ischemia or ulceration/scarring/purpura. Her nails appeared unremarkable. Her blood pressure recording was normal and digital pulses were felt. The rest of her systemic examination was unremarkable. A clinical diagnosis of panniculitis was considered. Her laboratory investigations, which included testing for anti-nuclear antibodies, anti-dsDNA, ANCA, and anti-phospholipid antibodies were negative. Total leucocyte count, platelet count, and erythrocyte sedimentation rate were normal. Mantoux test was strongly positive.
Figure 1: (a) Livedo racemosa over the lower limbs. (b) Mottled hyperpigmentation involving both legs

Click here to view

   Histopathology Top

A 3-mm punch biopsy of the skin with subcutis was taken. The epidermis and dermis were unremarkable. The medium-sized arteries in the deep dermis showed thickening of their walls with a hyalinised fibrin ring involving the entire circumference of the vessel [Figure 2]a and b]. Nuclear dust was noted in the vessel walls and within the lumina [Figure 2]c]. A predominant lymphohistiocytic infiltrate admixed with a few eosinophils were observed surrounding these vessels. There were no intact neutrophils in the infiltrate. There were no granulomas or panniculitis. Elastic van Gieson stain showed an intact internal elastic lamina.
Figure 2: (a) Involvement of medium sized arteries in deep dermis (H and E, ×100). (b and c) Concentric hyalinised fibrin ring involving the vessel wall. Note the perivascular and intraluminal lymphocytic infiltrate and nuclear dust (H and E, ×200)

Click here to view

   Management and Follow-up Top

The patient was treated with Dapsone, 100 mg/day for 3 months, and Doxycycline, 100 mg/day for 1 month. About 80% of the lesions cleared in 4 months. No fresh lesions have surfaced at 6-months follow-up.

   Discussion Top

Cutaneous vasculitis encompass a spectrum of disorders with varied aetiology. They are classified mainly based on the size of the involved vessels. [2] The conditions under medium-sized arteritis are PAN and Kawasaki disease. Cutaneous PAN (CPAN) is characterised by necrotising arteritis presenting as tender nodules or livedo reticularis. Systemic manifestions like myalgia, neuropathy, hypertension, and weight loss are noted occasionally, but viscera are spared. [3]

In 2003, the term "macular arteritis" was first used to describe a form of medium vessel vasculitis in African American patients presenting as hyperpigmented macules, without the classic features such as palpable purpura or erythematous and tender nodules. [4] Subsequently, there was a report of two Japanese patients with similar features. [5] All these patients had longstanding (4 months to 15 years) hyperpigmented lesions, some of them with a reticular pattern and no palpable nodules. Histologically, they were all characterised by fibrinoid necrosis of medium-sized arteries with lymphocytic infiltrates, leading to endarteritis obliterans. All these patients had an indolent clinical course, with no demonstrable improvement despite treatment.

In 2008, Lee and Kossard used the term LTA to describe a similar vasculitis in 5 young women with a characteristic intraluminal hyalinised fibrin ring and lymphocytic infiltrates with a scarcity of neutrophils. [1] Clinically, these patients had progressive pigmentation, livedo racemosa, and palpable mild induration. Four patients had associated anti-phospholipid antibodies on serology. They felt that LTA is a better suited term than macular arteritis, since the lesions are not just macular and also to underline the associated thrombophilic status.

LTA appears to be more common in young women of non-Caucasian origin. [1] Occasional cases have been seen in men and children. [6],[7] Our patient presented at an age older than those described so far. The lesions are asymptomatic and have a predilection for lower extremities, which is usually the first to be involved, and they slowly progress to involve the upper limbs, although to a lesser extent. [1],[8]

The most important differential diagnoses to be considered are anti-phospholipid syndrome (APS) and cutaneous PAN (CPAN). [1] The characteristic clinicopathological features of LTA, CPAN, and APS are summarized in [Table 1].

Some patients of LTA show increased levels of anti-phospholipid antibodies, but did not satisfy the clinical or laboratory criteria; the significance of this finding is unknown. CPAN or "limited" PAN was first described by Lindberg in 1931. [9] It characteristically presents as painful subcutaneous nodules, associated with mild constitutional symptoms. While many authors believe that CPAN is a distinct entity, several others view it just as an evolutionary stage in classic PAN. [10]

The histology of CPAN encompasses four stages. [11] The first, or acute stage, shows neutrophilic infiltration of vessels at the dermis-subcutis junction, with fibrin thrombi. There is no fibrinoid necrosis or disruption of the internal elastic lamina (IEL). The second stage shows fibrinoid necrosis with disruption of the media and IEL. The infiltrate is now joined by lymphocytes and histocytes. This stage shares a lot of microscopic similarities with LTA and has led to the idea that LTA is just a form of CPAN.

While there is certainly a histologic overlap, there are also a lot of differences from CPAN. The IEL is stated to be intact in macular arteritis, in contrast to CPAN at a similar stage. However, Lee et al., have not commented on this aspect in their original series of 5 patients. [1] Gupta et al., have recorded an intact IEL in their case. [8] Our case showed a preserved IEL. In the third and fourth (healing) stages, CPAN shows obliteration of the lumen, fibroblastic reaction, and proliferation of small vessels in the perivascular area. Despite lesions being present for 5 years in our patient, there were no signs of healing and the biopsy, with its fibrin ring, seems to represent an active lesion. In order to see the characteristic microscopic features of CPAN, one needs to biopsy the nodular/active areas and, often, multiple step sections are necessary. In contrast, the biopsy site was randomly chosen in our patient and the changes were easily identified in the initial section. Neutrophils are absent in LTA or very few if present.

Another important microscopic mimic is superficial thrombophlebitis. [12] Veins can have a partial IEL and are likely to be mistaken for arteries. The presence of concentric layers of elastic fibres among the smooth muscle bundles characterizes a vein and elastic stains should be employed in all cases with vascular pathology of the medium calibre vessels.

A curious association in our case is the strongly positive Mantoux test. Papulonecrotic tuberculid (PNT) is known to be associated with Takayasu arteritis. [13] Phlebitic granulomatous tuberculid has also been described. [14] In the present biopsy, we did not find any granulomatous inflammation and the clinical presentation was incompatible with that of tuberculosis; this might be just a chance concurrence.

Stabilization of the lesions of LTA is noted in some patients without any treatment. Others have been treated with low dose steroids and warfarin, without much benefit. [1],[8] In all the cases described so far, the course appears indolent without any systemic signs.

   Conclusion Top

LTA (or "macular arteritis") is an idiopathic, indolent form of cutaneous medium vessel arteritis without a systemic component and a characteristic hyaline fibrin ring encircling the lumen. While there are microscopic differences from CPAN, the small numbers of cases reported so far do not amount to conclusive testimony. It is important to recognize these features to accumulate evidence to support its candidature as a distinct vasculitis or consider it as a morphologic "pattern" in the spectrum of PAN.

   References Top

1.Lee JS, Kossard S, McGrath MA. Lymphocytic thrombophilic arteritis: A newly described medium-sized vessel arteritis of the skin. Arch Dermatol 2008;144:1175-82.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Jennette JC, Falk RJ, Andrassy K, Bacon PA, Churg J, Gross WL, et al. Nomenclature of systemic vasculitides. Proposal of an international consensus conference. Arthritis Rheum 1994;37:187-92.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Lightfoot RW Jr, Michel BA, Bloch DA, Hunder GG, Zvaifler NJ, McShane DJ, et al. The American College of Rheumatology 1990 criteria for the classification of polyarteritis nodosa. Arthritis Rheum 1990;33:1088-93.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Fein H, Sheth AP, Mutasim DF. Cutaneous arteritis presenting with hyperpigmented macules: Macular arteritis. J Am Acad Dermatol 2003;49:519-22.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Sadahira C, Yoshida T, Matsuoka Y, Takai I, Noda M, Kubota Y. Macular arteritis in Japanese patients. J Am Acad Dermatol 2005;52:364-6.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Al-Daraji W, Gregory AN, Carlson JA. "Macular arteritis": A latent form of cutaneous polyarteritis nodosa? Am J Dermatopathol 2008;30:145-9.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Buckthal-McCuin J, Mutasim DF. Macular arteritis mimicking pigmented purpuric dermatosis in a 6-year-old Caucasian girl. Pediatr Dermatol 2009;26:93-5.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Gupta S, Mar A, Dowling JP, Cowen P. Lymphocytic thrombophilic arteritis presenting as localized livedo racemosa. Australas J Dermatol 2011;52,52-5.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Lindberg K. Ein beitnag zur kenntsnis der periarteritis nodosa. Acta Med Scand 1931;76:183-25.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Khoo BP, Ng SK. Cutaneous polyarteritis nodosa: A case report and literature review. Ann Acad Med Singapore 1998;27:868-72.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Ishibashi M, Chen KR. A morphological study of evolution of cutaneous polyarteritis nodosa. Am J Dermatopathol 2008;30:319-26.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Chen KR. The misdiagnosis of superficial thrombophlebitis as cutaneous polyarteritis nodosa: Features of the internal elastic lamina and the compact concentric muscular layer as diagnostic pitfalls. Am J Dermatopathol 2010;32:688-93.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Rose AG, Sinclair-Smith CC. Takayasu's arteritis. A study of 16 autopsy cases. Arch Pathol Lab Med 1980;104:231-7.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Parker SC. Phlebitic tuberculid: A new tuberculid? J Cutan Pathol 1989;16:319.  Back to cited text no. 14

What is new?
Despite the striking histopathological features, it may be difficult to distinguish LTA from CPAN. The bottom.line is that patients with such a ghyalinised fibrin ringh need to be screened for occult, potentially serious systemic causes of vasculitis.


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2]

  [Table 1]


Print this article  Email this article
    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Article in PDF (1,290 KB)
    Citation Manager
    Access Statistics
    Reader Comments
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

   Case Report
    Management and F...
    Article Figures
    Article Tables

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded54    
    Comments [Add]    

Recommend this journal