Adult, male, Wistar Hannover rat (Rattus norvegicus)An approximately 2 year old male sentinel rat was found dead with no premonitory clinical signs.

Gross Description:  

Gross findings included prominent, dark-red mesenteric vasculature. Additional findings included approximately 3 ml of hemorrhagic fluid in the abdomen, a deformed spleen that was constricted in the middle, an 2.0 cm diameter, thin walled cyst filled with clear fluid and extending from the pancreatic region, and a 1.0 cm diameter clear cyst protruding from the right kidney.

Histopathologic Description:

Large and medium sized muscular mesenteric and pancreatic arteries are primarily affected. Some arteries have acute lesions of intimal and medial fibrinoid necrosis with thrombosis and luminal dilatation, destruction of the elastic laminae, mural hemorrhage, and segmental to global transmural infiltration of neutrophils, eosinophils, and mononuclear cells. Inflammatory infiltrates multifocally extend from the adventitia into the periarterial tissues. Other arteries have chronic lesions of irregular mural thickening due to fibrosis (sometimes causing narrowing of the lumen), mononuclear cell infiltrates, and organizing / recanalizing thrombi. Mural mineralization is also multifocally present within the medial layers of some arteries.

Other lesions on the slide include a dilated cystic structure adjacent to the pancreas interpreted to be a dilated lymph vessel as well as mesenteric lymph nodes with sinuosidal erythrocytosis and phagocyte hemosiderosis. 

Morphologic Diagnosis:  

1. Mesenteric and pancreatic arteries; Polyarteritis, necrotizing, multifocal, with mixed cell inflammation, fibroplasia, mural hemorrhage, and occlusive thrombi, rat

2. Mesenteric arteries, media; Mineralization, moderate, multifocal

3. Lymph nodes (multiple); Erythrocytosis, sinusoidal, moderate, multifocal, with phagocyte hemosiderosis

4. Abdomen, peripancreatic; Dilated lymph vessel, focal


Polyarteritis nodosa

Contributor Comment:  

The signalment, anatomical locations, gross appearance, and histologic characteristics of this case are consistent with those of polyarteritis nodosa (PAN). PAN is a progressive degenerative, inflammatory, and necrotizing disease that most commonly affects small to large arteries of the mesentery, pancreas, kidney, and testis7 . The aorta, arterioles, and smaller caliber vessels are typically spared 7. As observed in this case, the presence of acute, healing, and old lesions within a single animals is highly characteristic of PAN7 . Clinically, polyarteritis nodosa tends to occur in aged rats (reports vary between 500 and 900 days). Although polyarteritis nodosa is most often an incidental finding in aged rats, it can be fatal if, as is likely in this case, severely thrombosed mesenteric arteries rupture leading to fatal hemorrhaging into the abdominal cavity2.

PAN is typically considered to be an immune-mediated disease7,12 , but the disease has also been associated in some studies with corticosteroid adminstration, estrogen treatment, exposure to chemical carcinogens, and hypersensitivity2. PAN has a high incidence in spontaneous hypertensive rat strains as well as in rats with late stage chronic nephropathy (which was present in this case)7,9. The multifocal, moderate mineralization of the arterial media seen in this animals may also be secondary to chronic renal disease7.

Other related lesions observed microscopically in this animal included a focally extensive area of splenic coagulative necrosis with abundant intralesional thrombi, inflammation, hemorrhage, and hemosiderosis. This likely represents an infarct associated with the thrombi initiated by necrotizing polyarteritis. 

JPC Diagnosis:  

1. Pancreas and mesentery: Arteritis and periarteritis, proliferative and necrotizing, chronic, multifocal, severe, with multifocal mineralization and thrombosis, Wistar Hannover rat (Rattus norvegicus), rodent.
2. Pancreas, exocrine: Atrophy, multifocal, mild.
3. Lymph node: Draining hemorrhage, chronic, with sinusoidal ectasia.

Conference Comment:  

The characteristic histologic lesion of polyarteritis nordosa (PAN) is segmental fibrinoid degeneration and thickening of the tunica media of affected arteries with an inflammatory infiltrate composed mainly of mononuclear cells with fewer neutrophils.9 The size of the vessel lumen are markedly variable, with potential thrombosis with or without recanalization.9 Both acute and chronic inflammatory processes may occur within the same individual. 

In rats, lesions occur most commonly in medium-sized arteries of the mesentery, pancreas, pancreatic-duodenal arteries, and testis of male, Sprague-Dawley and spontaneous hypertensive rat (SHR) strains.9 Microscopic lesions may occur in most organs except for the lungs.9 In mice, most lesions occur within small and medium-sized arteries of the tongue, pancreas, heart, kidneys, mesentery, urinary bladder, uterus, testes, and gastrointestinal tract of MRL and NZB mice.9

Changes within the vessel walls can be highlighted with special stains. The modified Movats pentachrome method stains elastic laminae black, collagen and reticular fibers yellow, ground substance and mucin blue, fibrin intense red, and muscle fibers red.11 With the Movats pentachrome method, the quantity of intimal proliferation is readily apparent as are disruptions of the elastic laminae. Other stains such as Massons trichrome and smooth muscle actin aid in differentiating increased amounts of intimal connective tissue from smooth muscle hyperplasia.11

In dogs, lesions similar to polyarteritis nodosa occur as a syndrome of unknown etiology termed juvenile polyarteritis syndrome or beagle pain syndrome.13 An immune-mediated etiology is suspected. 


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