Background: Pauci-immune renal vasculitis with focal glomerular necrosis and crescent formation is usually associated with anti-neutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies (ANCAs). However, ANCA's are absent in up to 10% of cases, which constitutes a rarely studied variant of renal vasculitis.
Methods: This retrospective multicentre cohort study analyzed the presenting features, renal histology and outcome in 20 patients with pauci-immune crescentic necrotizing renal vasculitis in whom indirect immunofluorescence did not detect ANCA.
Results: Renal histology revealed a high percentage of active glomerular lesions (50%), mainly cellular crescents, 28% of them with glomerular necrosis. Chronic tissue damage with glomerulosclerosis (21%) and diffuse interstitial fibrosis (40%) was already present at diagnosis, more prominent than in historical PR3-positive patients. Infiltrates of polymorphonuclear neutrophils in glomerular capillary loops were observed in 40% of all biopsies, mainly in necrotic lesions. The subsets of interstitially infiltrating leukocytes similar to ANCA-associated disease. Microscopic polyangiitis was diagnosed in 17 patients, Wegener's granulomatosis in two and renal-limited vasculitis in one. The patients median disease extent index (DEI) of 5 (range 4-11) reflected a systemic vasculitis. ANCA-negative vasculitis was not associated with infection or malignancy. Renal outcome was correlated to DEI (P = 0.032) and serum creatinine at diagnosis (P = 0.04). The mortality rate was high (35%) and closely related to age above 65 years at diagnosis (P = 0.014). Conclusions. The histological findings and prognosis in ANCA-negative renal vasculitis are comparable with those of ANCA-positive disease. Our data underline the importance of the exact diagnosis in an active vasculitic disease process even in the absence of ANCAs.