IgG4-related sclerosing disease: a critical appraisal of an evolving clinicopathologic entity

Adv Anat Pathol. 2010 Sep;17(5):303-32. doi: 10.1097/PAP.0b013e3181ee63ce.


An elevated serum titer of immunoglobulin G4 (IgG4), the least common (3% to 6%) of the 4 subclasses of IgG, is a surrogate marker for the recently characterized IgG4-related sclerosing disease. The syndrome affects predominantly middle-aged and elderly patients, with male predominance. The patients present with symptoms referable to the involvement of 1 or more sites, usually in the form of mass lesions. The prototype is IgG4-related sclerosing pancreatitis (also known as autoimmune pancreatitis), most commonly presenting as painless obstructive jaundice with or without a pancreatic mass. Other common sites of involvement are the hepatobiliary tract, salivary gland, orbit, and lymph node, but practically any organ-site can be affected, such as retroperitoneum, aorta, mediastinum, soft tissue, skin, central nervous system, breast, kidney, prostate, upper aerodigestive tract, and lung. The patients usually have a good general condition, with no fever or constitutional symptoms. Common laboratory findings include raised serum globulin, IgG, IgG4, and IgE, whereas lactate dehydrogenase is usually not raised. Some patients have low titers of autoantibodies (such as antinuclear antibodies and rheumatoid factor). The disease often shows excellent response to steroid therapy. The natural history is characterized by the development of multiple sites of involvement with time, sometimes after many years. However, the disease can remain localized to 1 site in occasional patients. The main pathologic findings in various extranodal sites include lymphoplasmacytic infiltration, lymphoid follicle formation, sclerosis and obliterative phlebitis, accompanied by atrophy and loss of the specialized structures of the involved tissue (such as secretory acini in pancreas, salivary gland, or lacrimal gland). The relative predominance of the lymphoplasmacytic and sclerotic components results in 3 histologic patterns: pseudolymphomatous, mixed, and sclerosing. Immunostaining shows increased IgG4+ cells in the involved tissues (>50 per high-power field, with IgG4/IgG ratio >40%). The lymph nodes show multicentric Castleman disease-like features, reactive follicular hyperplasia, interfollicular expansion, or progressive transformation of germinal centers, with the unifying feature being an increase in IgG4+ plasma cells on immunostaining. The nature and pathogenesis of IgG4-related sclerosing disease are still elusive. Occasionally, the disease can be complicated by the development of malignant lymphoma and possibly carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Autoimmune Diseases / drug therapy
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Autoimmune Diseases / pathology*
  • Female
  • Glucocorticoids / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / blood*
  • Immunologic Factors / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pancreatitis / drug therapy
  • Pancreatitis / immunology
  • Pancreatitis / pathology*
  • Sclerosis / immunology
  • Sclerosis / pathology*


  • Glucocorticoids
  • Immunoglobulin G
  • Immunologic Factors