Accumulating evidence indicates that a complement-mediated microvasculopathy may play a pathogenic role in dermatomyositis. In a previous study, we demonstrated neoantigens of the C5b-9 complement membrane attack complex in the muscle microvasculature of childhood and adult cases of dermatomyositis. To further characterize the relationship between the vascular complement deposits and histologic changes, quantitative histopathologic analyses were performed on 39 dermatomyositis biopsy specimens (26 adult, 13 children). There was a significant correlation between the percentage of fascicles with fibers having focal myofibrillar loss, a change seen early in the evolution of ischemic muscle fiber damage, and the percentage of fascicles having capillary deposits of membrane attack complex. Conversely, in biopsy specimens with a higher percentage of fascicles with perifascicular atrophy, membrane attack complex deposits were significantly less common. A fascicle-by-fascicle analysis supported these observations. Patients whose biopsy specimens were negative for microvascular membrane attack complex had clinical weakness for a significantly longer time than those patients with vascular complement deposits. These data support the hypothesis that the complement-mediated vasculopathy is a primary immunopathogenic event in the evolution of muscle lesions in dermatomyositis.