Background: An unusual inflammatory myopathy characterised by an infiltration of non-epithelioid histiocytic cells has been recorded with increasing frequency in the past 5 years in France. We reassessed some of these cases.
Methods: We did a retrospective analysis of 18 such cases seen in five myopathology centres between May, 1993, and December, 1997. The myopathological changes were reassessed at a clinopathology seminar.
Findings: Detailed clinical information was available for 14 patients. The main presumptive diagnoses were polymyositis and polymyalgia rheumatica. Symptoms included myalgias in 12 patients, arthralgias in nine, muscle weakness in six, pronounced asthenia in five, and fever in four. Abnormal laboratory findings were occasionally observed, and included raised creatine kinase concentrations, increased erythrocyte sedimentation rate, and myopathic electromyography. Muscle biopsy showed infiltration of the subcutaneous tissue, epimysium, perimysium, and perifascicular endomysium by sheets of large macrophages, with a finely granular PAS-positive content. Also present were occasional CD8 T cells, and inconspicuous muscle-fibre damage. Epithelioid and giant cells, necrosis, and mitotic figures were not seen. The images were easily distinguishable from sarcoid myopathy and fasciitis-panniculitis syndromes. Whipple's disease, Mycobacterium avium intracellulare infection, and malakoplakia could not be confirmed. Ten patients were treated with various combinations of steroids and antibiotics; symptoms improved in eight patients, and stabilised in two.
Interpretation: A new inflammatory muscle disorder of unknown cause, characterised by a distinctive pathological pattern of macrophagic myofasciitis, is emerging in France.