Epstein-Barr virus-related posttransplantation lymphoproliferative disorder involving pancreas allografts: Histological differential diagnosis from acute aiiograft rejection

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Human Pathology








Acinar damage; Endotheliitis; Epstein-Barr-encoded RNAs; Vascular rejection


The clinical and pathological features of acute pancreas allograft rejection and involvement of the graft by posttransplantation lymphoproliferative disorders (PTLD) overlap. Because the treatment is diametrically opposite in these two types of lesions, an accurate diagnosis is essential. The histological features in pancreas allograft needle biopsy specimens (n = 7) and pancreatectomies (n = 4) from four patients with Epstein-Barr virus (EBV)-related PTLD were compared with the material from 14 patients who did not develop PTLD after 12 to 58 months of follow-up and whose biopsy specimens (n=10) and pancreatectomies (n = 10) showed rejection- related heavy or atypical inflammatory infiltrates. Features typical of rejection included most (>75%) being of mixed small and large, activated- appearing T lymphocytes, a smaller component of mature plasma cells, and variable numbers of eosinophils. Cytologically atypical cells were always a minority (< 10%). The inflammation involved the septal spaces with proportional involvement of the exocrine tissue, veins, ducts, and arteries. The inflammation was particularly targeted against the acini and was associated with acinar cell damage. Features characteristic of PTLD were nodular and expansile infiltrates, composed of a significant proportion of atypical, plasmacytoid B cells (40% to 70% of the infiltrate); Reed- Sternberg-like cells were noted in two patients. The infiltrates involved the parenchyma randomly with no apparent affinity for the acinar tissue. Extensive infiltration of the peripancreatic soft tissues was common. Arterial walls were not involved in PTLD unless there was concurrent acute vascular rejection. Features identified in both conditions were loci of necrosis and infiltration of venous walls with associated endotheliitis. Samples with concurrent PTLD and acute rejection showed combinations of these features. In situ hybridization for EBER (Epstein-Barr-encoded RNAs) was positive only in the samples from patients with PTLD. Based on the assessment of morphological differences and the selective use of relatively simple ancillary techniques, PTLD can be correctly diagnosed even in small tissue samples such as needle biopsy specimens. An early diagnosis will lead to the appropriate treatment.

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