Background: The aim of the study was to determine whether there was evidence for a geographic gradient in the incidence of Wegener's granulomatosis (WG) and WG-like disease in New Zealand (NZ).
Methods: The National Minimum Dataset of the Ministry of Health, NZ was searched for individual patient discharges coded by the International Classification of Diseases 10th Revision, Australian Modification as either M301 (polyarteritis with lung involvement, including Churg Strauss and allergic granulomatous angiitis) or M313 (WG, necrotizing respiratory granulomatosis) for the period 1 January 1999 to 31 December 2003. Data were standardized using the 2001 NZ census.
Results: One hundred and ninety-five patients (95 men) were given a first-time discharge code of either M301 (40 patients) or M313 (155 patients). No gender bias was seen. The rate among Europeans was twice that of NZ Maoris or Asians. The rate of disease peaked in the age band 70-79 years and during winter months. A significant positive north-south geographic gradient was present for M313. No difference in the rate of readmission or time to relapse between geographic regions was found for M313.
Conclusion: A north-south gradient in the rate of patient discharges given a diagnostic code of M313 (WG, necrotizing respiratory granulomatosis) was present in NZ. This finding supports the hypothesis that there is a latitude-dependent risk factor(s) for WG possibly common to both global hemispheres.