Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
To diagnose vasculitis, your doctor will likely ask about your symptoms and past medical history and conduct a thorough physical exam. Tests and procedures used to diagnose vasculitis include:
- Blood tests. Blood tests used to help diagnose vasculitis include tests that look for signs of inflammation, such as the erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein tests. A complete blood cell count can tell whether you have enough red blood cells. A test that looks for certain antibodies — antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibodies test — that suggest your immune system is fighting healthy cells may also be done.
- Urine tests. Testing samples of your urine may reveal abnormalities, such as red blood cells and increased amounts of protein, that often indicate a medical problem. If vasculitis has caused kidney problems, your prognosis tends to be poorer.
- Imaging tests. Your doctor may be able to determine whether larger arteries, such as the aorta and its branches, are affected through the use of noninvasive imaging techniques. These include X-ray, ultrasound, computerized tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
- X-rays of your blood vessels (angiogram). During an angiogram, a flexible catheter, resembling a thin straw, is inserted into a large artery or vein. A special dye (contrast medium) is then injected into the catheter, and X-rays are taken as the dye fills these arteries or veins. The outlines of your blood vessels are visible on the resulting X-rays.
- Removing a piece of the affected blood vessel for testing (biopsy). A surgical procedure to remove a small sample (biopsy) of blood vessel or organ that is affected, such as the skin, kidney, lung or nerve, allows your doctor to examine the tissue for signs of vasculitis.
- What is vasculitis? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/vas/. Accessed Sept. 9, 2011.
- Sharma P, et al. Systemic vasculitis. American Family Physician. 2011;83:556.
- Langford CA. Vasculitis. Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology. 2010;125:S216.
- Langford CA, et al. The vasculitis syndromes. In: Fauci AS, et al. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw Hill Companies; 2012. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=9138083. Accessed Sept. 9, 2011.
- Miller A, et al. An approach to the diagnosis and management of systemic vasculitis. Clinical and Experimental Immunology. 2010;160:143.
- Rituxan (prescribing information). San Francisco, Calif.: Genentech; 2011. http://www.accessdata.fda.gov/drugsatfda_docs/label/2011/103705s5344lbl.pdf. Accessed Sept. 19, 2011.
- Chang-Miller A (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. Sept. 19, 2011.
- Falk RJ, et al. Granulomatosis with polyangiitis (Wegener's): An alternative name for Wegener's granulomatosis. Arthritis and Rheumatism. 2011;63:863.