• Although polyarteritis nodosa (PAN) may result in thrombosis or aneurysm formation in any organ in the body, hepatobiliary complications are unusual. We reviewed seven cases that demonstrated the diagnostic difficulties and therapeutic options available in the management of hepatobiliary PAN. No consistent sign that indicated the severity of hepatobiliary PAN could be identified. In cases of thrombotic PAN, acalculus cholecystitis usually could be diagnosed preoperatively. Early tissue diagnosis and aggressive intervention are required for appropriate patient treatment. If the diagnosis is unclear, a preoperative muscle or skin biopsy specimen is often helpful in establishing a tissue diagnosis of PAN, even if no obvious pathologic condition is evident. Patients who undergo celiotomy for acalculus cholecystitis or peritoneal signs of an unclear origin should have tissue specimens (gallbladder wall, liver, or omentum) submitted for pathologic study. Angiography may be diagnostic preoperatively or when results of biopsies are equivocal. In addition, early angiography can define the extent of visceral involvement and permit control by embolization of hemorrhage secondary to aneurysm rupture. Awareness of the possibilities of thrombotic, ischemic, or bleeding complications from PAN allows more aggressive and rapid management of abdominal complaints, especially in patients who are receiving immunosuppressant therapy.
(Arch Surg. 1991;126:909-912)