Diagnostic Approach to the Complexity of IgG4-Related Disease

Mayo Clin Proc. 2015 Jul;90(7):927-39. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2015.03.020.


IgG4-related disease (IgG4-RD) is a systemic disease characterized by the infiltration of IgG4-bearing plasma cells and, more importantly, distinctive histopathological features: storiform fibrosis, obliterative phlebitis, a lymphoplasmacytic infiltrate, and mild-to-moderate tissue eosinophilia. The diagnostic approach is complex and relies on the coexistence of various clinical, laboratory, and histopathological findings, none of which is pathognomonic in and of itself. IgG4-related disease should be suspected in patients presenting with unexplained enlargement or swelling of 1 or more organs or tissue organs. Four laboratory abnormalities often provide initial clues to the diagnosis of IgG4-RD: peripheral eosinophilia, hypergammaglobulinemia, elevated serum IgE levels, and hypocomplementemia. Elevated serum IgG4 levels provided critical information in identifying the first cases of IgG4-RD, but recent studies have reported substantial limitations to the measurement of serum IgG4 concentrations, precluding reliance on serum IgG4 concentrations for diagnostic purposes. In contrast, new studies have suggested a promising role of flow cytometry studies in the diagnosis and longitudinal management of IgG4-RD. Demonstration of the classic histopathological features of IgG4-RD remains crucial to diagnosis in most cases, and biopsy proof is preferred strongly by most disease experts before the initiation of treatment. Of note, the multiorgan nature of IgG4-RD was first established in 2003. This review intends to provide most recent knowledge about the clinical, laboratory, radiological, and pathological characteristics of IgG4-RD that may guide the physician to establish an early diagnosis. We searched PubMed and MEDLINE for relevant articles published between January 1, 2000, and November 1, 2014, using the search terms IgG4 and IgG4-related.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autoimmune Diseases / diagnosis*
  • Autoimmune Diseases / immunology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Humans
  • Immunoglobulin G / immunology*
  • Plasma Cells / immunology*


  • Immunoglobulin G