Background: In adult patients with a slowly progressive demyelinating neuropathy, it may be difficult to distinguish between a hereditary neuropathy and chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP). The authors previously observed clustering of macrophages around endoneurial blood vessels in sural nerve biopsies from patients with CIDP.
Objectives: To quantitate macrophage clustering around endoneurial blood vessels in CIDP vs hereditary neuropathies.
Methods: The authors studied 21 patients with CIDP, 18 patients with hereditary neuropathies, and 5 normal sural nerves. Numbers of macrophages, T-cells, and blood vessels were counted after immunohistochemical staining. The presence of three or more macrophages around one blood vessel was defined as a cluster. In a subsequent validation analysis, 65 stored biopsy specimens obtained from patients with a chronic neuropathy were re-evaluated for perivascular macrophage clustering according to criteria derived from the quantitative analysis of the first 221 biopsies in a blinded fashion.
Results: The percentage of endoneurial vessels with macrophage clusters was higher in CIDP than in hereditary neuropathies (CIDP median = 9.4, range 0 to 48; hereditary NP median = 0, range 0 to 7.7; p < 0.001). The evaluation of the 65 further biopsies showed that the presence of one perivascular macrophage cluster per fascicle proved to be a valid criterion to differentiate between inflammatory and other forms of neuropathy (chi2 test p = 0.0000025, sensitivity 75%, specificity 72%).
Conclusion: The presence of clusters of macrophages around endoneurial vessels in sural nerve biopsies may serve as a useful additional marker for establishing the pathologic diagnosis of chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP).