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Vasculitis Program

Rheumatologists at the Massachusetts General Hospital Vasculitis Program have extensive experience recognizing how vasculitis can affect different organs and take a team approach to safely and effectively treating all forms of the disease.

Early Diagnosis, Multidisciplinary Care for Vasculitis

Vasculitis causes inflammation in and damage to blood vessels, including arteries, veins and capillaries. As a result, it can affect virtually any organ in the body.

Fortunately, all forms of vasculitis are treatable. The key is to make a diagnosis before the disease has inflicted permanent organ damage. At the Mass General Vasculitis Program, we focus on diagnosing vasculitis early and then administering treatment safely and effectively.

Multidisciplinary expertise, a major strength at Mass General, is essential in caring for patients with multi-organ system disorders such as vasculitis. Our rheumatologists can coordinate clinical care with other world-class specialists throughout the hospital, such as:

  • Nephrologists
  • Dermatologists
  • Neurologists
  • Ophthalmologists and neuro-ophthalmologists (at Mass General and the nearby Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary)
  • Dermatopathologists
  • Vascular pathologists

What to Expect

Our program is headquartered in the Yawkey Building on the main Mass General campus. Many of our services are also available at Mass General West in Waltham and our community health centers in Charlestown and Chelsea.

All physicians in the Rheumatology Unit care for patients with vasculitis. In order to make your first appointment as productive as possible, please bring your medical records and results from previous biopsies (if applicable). One of our rheumatologists will review your history, perform a physical examination and decide what tests are necessary to diagnose vasculitis.

Depending on your symptoms, we may conduct blood tests and/or organ-specific tests to help make a diagnosis. Our rheumatologists have extensive experience recognizing how vasculitis can affect different organs, which enhances our diagnostic capabilities. Our close working relationships with Mass General pathologists who have experience in vasculitis also helps in this regard.

A Personalized Treatment Plan

Your specific diagnosis—in particular, the severity of the disease and the extent of organ-system involvement—will determine your prognosis and treatment plan. Our goals for treatment are to induce and maintain remission, prevent disease flares and detect disease flares early.

Vasculitis traditionally has been treated with steroids and other prescription medications. However, a groundbreaking clinical trial co-led by Rheumatology Unit clinical director John Stone, MD, MPH, has established rituximab as the new standard of care for severe ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV). Ongoing studies could also lead to the use of rituximab in treating other forms of vasculitis in the future.

With early diagnosis and expert management, you can expect to maintain long-term remission of vasculitis. Most of our patients receive lifelong care at Mass General. However, if you do not live in the area, we can co-manage care with your local physician and see you once a year to monitor your health.

Treating Vasculitis in All Its Forms

Vasculitis comprises a group of rare inflammatory conditions. Each targets blood vessel walls, causing vascular damage and potential complications across many different organs.

The most common forms of vasculitis are giant cell arterititis and ANCA-associated vasculitis (AAV), which includes Wegener's granulomatosis and microscopic polyangiitis.

The Mass General Vasculitis Program cares for patients with these forms of vasculitis as well as:

  • Behcet's disease
  • Buerger's disease
  • Central nervous system
  • Churg Strauss Syndrome
  • Cryoglobulinemia
  • Henoch-Schönlein purpura
  • Hypersensitivity vasculitis
  • Kawasaki disease
  • Polyarteritis nodosa
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica
  • Rheumatoid vasculitis
  • Takayasu's granulomatosis

Groundbreaking Research Leads to New Standard of Care

In July 2010, Mass General investigators published the results of a landmark clinical trial in vasculitis. Rheumatology Unit clinical director John Stone, MD, MPH, co-led a multicenter trial that proved the ability of rituximab to induce remission in AAV. The findings established rituximab as the first new standard of care for severe AAV in four decades.

Ongoing research will provide a greater understanding of the long-term effectiveness of rituximab in patients with severe AAV. It will also produce insights into treating other forms of vasculitis, which could potentially lead to new treatments. Patients at Mass General have access to these emerging treatments as their safety is proven. Browse online for open trials.

Internationally Recognized Expertise in Vasculitis

Dr. Stone, who has directed the Vasculitis Program since 2008, has an international reputation for clinical and research expertise in vasculitis. He co-founded the John Hopkins Vasculitis Center in 1997 and directed the center from 2000 to 2006.

In addition to serving as principal investigator in two major National Institutes of Health-funded clinical trials in vasculitis, Dr. Stone directed a multicenter, randomized clinical trial in Wegener's granulomatosis. He is the former chairman of the International Network for the Study of Systemic Vasculitides, and has written and edited extensively on the subject of vasculitis.

Educating the Next Generation

As part of an elite teaching hospital, the Rheumatology Unit is committed to preparing the next generation of leading academic physicians, scientists and clinician-educators. Our fellowship program, affiliated with Harvard Medical School, entails intensive study of the clinical, diagnostic, therapeutic, pathogenic and research aspects of rheumatologic diseases. Internal medicine residents also gain exposure to vasculitis patients as part of their general training.

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