Etiopathogenesis, clinical diagnosis and treatment of thromboangiitis obliterans - current practices

Int J Angiol. Fall 2009;18(3):119-25. doi: 10.1055/s-0031-1278337.


Thromboangiitis obliterans (TAO) is a segmental inflammatory occlusive disorder that affects small- and medium-sized arteries, and arm and leg veins of young smokers. Several different diagnostic criteria have been offered for the diagnosis of TAO. Clinically, it manifests as migratory thrombophlebitis or signs of arterial insufficiency in the extremities. It is characterized by highly cellular and inflammatory occlusive thrombi, primarily of the distal extremities. Thromboses are often occlusive and sometimes display moderate, nonspecific inflammatory infiltrate, consisting mostly of polymorphonuclear leukocytes, mononuclear cells and rare multinuclear giant cells. The immune system appears to play a critical role in the etiology of TAO. However, knowledge about immunological aspects involved in the progression of vascular tissue inflammation, and consequently, the evolution of this disease, is still limited. There are several studies that suggest the involvement of genetic factors and results have shown increasing levels of antiendothelial cell antibodies in patients with active disease. Vasodilation is impaired in patients with TAO. TAO disorder may actually be an autoimmune disorder, probably initiated by an unknown antigen in the vascular endothelium, possibly a component of nicotine. There are various therapies available for treatment of TAO, but the major and indispensable measure is smoking cessation. Except for discontinuation of tobacco use, no forms of therapy are definitive. Sympathectomy, cilostazol and prostaglandin analogues (prostacyclin or prostaglandin E) have been used in specific conditions. Recently, therapeutic angiogenesis with autologous transplantation of bone marrow mononuclear cells has been studied in patients with critical limb ischemia.