Journal of Marine Medical Society

: 2021  |  Volume : 23  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 101--103

Necrotizing lymphadenitis with generalized adenopathy: A diagnostic dilemma – Kikuchi–Fujimoto disease

Gaurav P S Gahlot1, Ravindra Dubey2, Tathagata Chatterjee1, Manu Chopra3,  
1 Department of Lab Sciences and Mol Med Army Hospital (R & R) Delhi, India
2 Department of Otorhinolaryngology, Military Hospital, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India
3 Department of Respiratory Medicine, Army Hospital (R & R) Delhi, India

Correspondence Address:
Dr. Gaurav P S Gahlot
Department of Lab Sciences and Mol Med, Army Hospital (R and R), Delhi


Kikuchi–Fujimoto disease (KFD) is a rare, self-limiting, benign disorder of lymphoreticular system that commonly occurs in young Asian women predominantly under <30 years of age. Clinically, it presents as cervical lymphadenopathy, fever, and weight loss; therefore, it is a disease of exclusion in countries such as India, which are endemic for tuberculosis. Here, we are describing a case of a young female who again presented with low-grade fever and arthralgia; 1 month after the completion of 6-month antitubercular treatment. In view of generalized lymphadenopathy, raised erythrocyte sedimentation rate; clinical, radiological, and fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography-computed tomography scan findings; and the differentials diagnoses of disseminated tuberculosis, lymphoma, or sarcoidosis were considered. Histopathology of the right axillary lymph node showed paracortical expansion by histiocytes, necrosis, numerous apoptotic debris, and paucity of plasma cells with the absence of neutrophils, thus confirming the diagnosis of KFD. The correct diagnosis thus helped to relieve the anxiety of the patient and prevented unnecessary medication.

How to cite this article:
Gahlot GP, Dubey R, Chatterjee T, Chopra M. Necrotizing lymphadenitis with generalized adenopathy: A diagnostic dilemma – Kikuchi–Fujimoto disease.J Mar Med Soc 2021;23:101-103

How to cite this URL:
Gahlot GP, Dubey R, Chatterjee T, Chopra M. Necrotizing lymphadenitis with generalized adenopathy: A diagnostic dilemma – Kikuchi–Fujimoto disease. J Mar Med Soc [serial online] 2021 [cited 2021 Dec 5 ];23:101-103
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Kikuchi–Fujimoto disease (KFD) or phagocytic necrotizing lymphadenitis is an uncommon, idiopathic disease with female dominance (M: F = 1:4) that occurs in second/third decades. As it is characterized by the triad of regional cervical lymphadenopathy, fever, and night sweats, the differential diagnosis of tuberculosis, lymphoproliferative disorders, systemic lupus erythematosus, infectious mononucleosis, or sarcoidosis are considered.[1] Histomorphological features show distorted lymph node architecture with irregular cortical expansion by the areas of coagulative necrosis, abundant karyorrhectic debris, transformed lymphocytes (immunoblasts), and C-shaped histiocytes at the periphery of the necrosis.[2] Management includes symptomatic care, analgesics-antipyretics, or corticosteroids with spontaneous recovery in 1–6 months, however recurrence rate of 3%–13% has been observed.

This case broadens the differentials of necrotizing lymphadenitis and highlights the importance of timely histomorphological diagnosis, so as to prevent the anxiety surrounding a misdiagnosis and administration of unnecessary medication.

 Case Report

A 25-year-old young female doctor who presented in August 2016 with a history of 7 kg weight loss over 5 months and low-grade intermittent fever with anorexia for 1 month. On investigation, bilateral hilar prominence on chest X-ray and positive Mantoux test were noted. Computed tomography (CT) of the chest and abdomen revealed enlarged mediastinal, hilar, mesenteric, and retroperitoneal lymph nodes with central necrosis and peripheral enhancement [Figure 1]a, [Figure 1]b, [Figure 1]c, [Figure 1]d. Antitubercular treatment (ATT) was started, and she responded well to 6 months ATT course in the form of recovery from arthralgia, gain of weight with normal appetite. One month later, she again developed intermittent fever with polyarthralgia and referred to our hospital for further evaluation. Whole-body CT scan showed right axillary, mediastinal necrotic lymphadenopathy, scant pulmonary nodule, granuloma, retroperitoneal lymphadenopathy, minimal ascites, splenomegaly, and small subcapsular necrotic lesion in the liver. Transbronchial needle aspiration cytology showed predominantly necrosis and was negative for GeneXpert. Serum angiotensin-converting enzyme level was slightly raised 73 U/L. Complete fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG)-positron emission tomography/CT scan showed FDG avid lymphadenopathy on both sides of the diaphragm, two mildly FDG avid nodular lesions adjacent to the lower pole of the spleen, reversal of liver-spleen metabolic ratio, focal isodense, and an ill-defined area of FDG avidity in segment III of the liver [Figure 1]e, [Figure 1]f, [Figure 1]g, [Figure 1]h. On the basis of clinical presentation and investigations, differential diagnosis of lymphoproliferative disorder, disseminated tuberculosis, or sarcoidosis was considered. Histopathology of dissected right axillary lymph node showed paracortical expansion with necrotizing lymphadenitis, numerous apoptotic bodies, fibrin deposits, histiocytes, sparse plasma cells, and absent neutrophils [Figure 2]a, [Figure 2]b, [Figure 2]c, [Figure 2]d, [Figure 2]e. Ziehl–Neelsen stain was negative for acid-fast bacilli. The background cells show immunopositivity for histiocytes CD68 [Figure 2]f and mixed population of reactive T cells; CD3 [Figure 2]g, B cells;CD20 [Figure 2]h. Thus, histomorphological diagnosis of KFD was offered. All medications were stopped, and the patient was reassured with advice of follow-up to look for possible relapse. At present, the disease has resolved, and the patient is well with advice of 6-month follow-up.{Figure 1}{Figure 2}


KFD or histiocytic necrotizing lymphadenitis with granulocytic infiltration or subacute necrotizing lymphadenitis was first reported independently by Japanese pathologists Dr. Masahiro Kikuchi and Fujimoto in 1972 as “lymphadenitis showing focal reticulum hyperplasia with nuclear debris, phagocytosis, and “cervical subacute necrotizing lymphadenitis,” respectively. It is more common in Asian countries, however, now also recognized in North America, South America, Australia, Africa, and Europe. Usual clinical presentations include fever, night sweats, and lymphadenopathy, with rare symptoms comprising weight loss, rash, joint pain, diarrhea, and fatigue, thus mimicking tuberculosis, lymphoma, systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), cat-scratch disease, toxoplasmosis, and infectious mononucleosis.[1] In 83% of cases, painless/painful unilateral cervical lymph node is affected, while cases with generalized adenopathy involving axillary, inguinal, and mesenteric are uncommon.[3] A raised erythrocyte sedimentation rate in 40%, leukopenia in 43%, and anemia in 23% cases with otherwise normal hematological and biochemical parameters have been observed.[4],[5] The exact cause is unknown, however, possible postulated theory of autoimmune etiology with possible infectious triggers such as Mycobacterium szulgai, Yersinia enterocolitica, toxoplasma, or viral agents Epstein–Barr virus, HHV6, HHV8, parvovirus B19, human immunodeficiency virus, or chemical, physical, and neoplastic agents has been considered.[6] It may be associated with antiphospholipid syndrome, polymyositis, idiopathic arthritis, bilateral uveitis, or cutaneous necrotizing vasculitis. Apoptotic cell death is mediated by cytotoxic CD8 + T lymphocytes as the principal mechanism of cellular destruction. Histopathology comprises (a) initial phase, that is, follicular hyperplasia and paracortical expansion, (b) proliferative phase, that is, lymphocytes, T- and B-cell blasts, plasmacytoid monocytes, histiocytes, and numerous apoptosis in the background, and (c) necrotizing phase, that is, necrosis without a neutrophilic infiltrate with predominance of histiocytes having crescentic nuclei and phagocytosed debris.[4],[7] The proliferative phase mimics lymphoma, whereas the necrotic phase mimics SLE lymphadenitis. KFD can be distinguished from lymphoma due to partially distorted architecture with patent sinuses, numerous reactive histiocytes without a starry-sky pattern, low mitotic rate, absence of Reed–Sternberg cells, absence of neutrophils in the “necrotizing phase” paucity of plasma cells, presence of hematoxylin bodies, and thrombosed blood vessels favor SLE. The immunohistochemical profile of KFD shows the predominance of CD8+ cytotoxic T-cells, CD68+ histiocytes, and CD123+ plasmacytoid dendritic cells with immunonegativity for CD3 or CD20.[4],[7]

Being a self-resolving disease, no specific treatment is available except the requirement of prednisolone, antibiotics intravenous immunoglobulins, and hydroxychloroquine in few cases for rapid recovery.[4],[8] A recurrence rate of 3%–13% with longer symptomatic duration and more extranodal involvement in such cases has been observed. A positive antinuclear antibody titer is associated with a high risk of recurrence.[9],[10] As <3% cases may develop SLE later on, these patients should be followed up for a few years.

In conclusion, KFD is an uncommon, self-limiting disease of unknown etiology with excellent prognosis. Its clinical features mimic with tuberculosis in endemic areas as noted in the index case, therefore, the clinician needs to be vigilant; because a timely histological diagnosis can prevent misdiagnosis and inappropriate use of antibiotics or immunomodulatory drugs.

Declaration of patient consent

The authors certify that they have obtained all appropriate patient consent forms. In the form the patient(s) has/have given his/her/their consent for his/her/their images and other clinical information to be reported in the journal. The patients understand that their names and initials will not be published and due efforts will be made to conceal their identity, but anonymity cannot be guaranteed.


We acknowledge the support of our patient, as with her support, the study had been feasible.

Financial support and sponsorship


Conflicts of interest

There are no conflicts of interest.


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