Wegener's granulomatosis is an organ- and/or life-threatening autoimmune disease of as yet unknown etiology. The classic clinical triad consists of necrotizing granulomatous inflammation of the upper and/or lower respiratory tract, necrotizing glomerulonephritis, and an autoimmune necrotizing systemic vasculitis affecting predominantly small vessels. The detection of antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies directed against proteinase 3 (PR3-ANCA) is highly specific for Wegener's granulomatosis. ANCA positivity is found only in about 50% of the patients with localized Wegener's granulomatosis (which is restricted to the respiratory tract and affects < or = 5% of the patients), whereas PR3-ANCA positivity is seen in 95% of the patients with generalized Wegener's granulomatosis. Studies showing an expansion of circulating tumor necrosis factor-(TNF-)alpha-producing Th1-type CD4(+)CD28(-) T-cell effector memory T-cells and their presence as Th1-type cytokine profile- driving cell population within granulomatous lesions provide the rationale for using TNF-alpha-blocking agents in Wegener's granulomatosis refractory to standard induction therapy with cyclophosphamide and corticosteroids ("Fauci's scheme"). Vasculitis is an independent risk factor for diffuse endothelial dysfunction and may be a consequence of TNF-alpha action on endothelial cells. Recently, another study has shown intima-media thickening of the wall of the common carotid artery and bulb, as well as a significantly increased incidence of stroke, myocardial infarction and occlusive artery disease in Wegener's granulomatosis. This study suggests that systemic inflammation and vasculitis contribute to accelerated arteriosclerosis in Wegener's granulomatosis.