PURPOSE: Gastrointestinal involvement in polyarteritis nodosa carries a poor prognosis. A 1982 review from our institution reported acute abdominal syndromes in 31% of patients with polyarteritis nodosa, and that all 5 patients with acute surgical abdomens died. We reviewed our more recent experience to determine if outcomes have changed since. SUBJECTS AND METHODS: We reviewed the records of all patients with polyarteritis nodosa in our vasculitis database between 1986 and 2000. Inclusion criteria were a diagnosis of polyarteritis nodosa, symptoms or signs of gastrointestinal involvement, and either a mesenteric angiogram consistent with polyarteritis nodosa or histopathologic proof of a medium-vessel vasculitis. We calculated a prognostic (5 factor) score for all patients. RESULTS: We identified 24 patients with polyarteritis nodosa who had gastrointestinal involvement during their illness. Thirteen (54%) of the patients developed acute surgical abdomens, 3 of whom died (P = 0.02 by comparison with the historical cohort). Mean (± SD) prognostic scores were higher among patients in the acute abdomen group compared with those who did not have acute abdominal syndromes (1.7 ± 0.9 vs. 0.6 ± 0.7, P = 0.002), corresponding with the observed mortality in these groups. CONCLUSION: Gastrointestinal involvement occurs commonly in polyarteritis nodosa and carries a poor prognosis. Compared with a historical cohort at our institution, mortality from this complication may have decreased, perhaps because of earlier diagnosis.
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