Acute occlusive large vessel disease leading to fatal stroke in a patient with systemic lupus erythematosus: Arteritis or atherosclerosis?



A woman with a history of systemic lupus erythematosus presented with extensive bilateral strokes due to acute inflammatory, occlusive large vessel disease affecting several aortic branches including the carotid, subclavian, renal, and iliac arteries. We quantitatively characterized the arterial inflammation in this patient and compared it with the inflammatory infiltrates from 22 patients with conventional atherosclerosis. Profound histomorphologic differences from conventional atherosclerosis (predominance of CD8-positive lymphocytes, relative absence of macrophages, no ectopic neovascularization, no signs of plaque hemorrhage, concentric instead of eccentrical stenosis) suggest that this patient's accelerated arteriopathy was precipitated by pathogenic events other than conventional atherosclerosis.