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Correlation of Inflammation with Adrenocortical Atrophy in Canine Adrenalitis

Frank, C.B., Valentin, S.Y., Scott-Moncrieff, J.C.R., Miller, M.A.
Journal of comparative pathology 2013 v.149 no.2-3 pp. 268-279
adrenal cortex, atrophy, dogs, hormones, humans, hypoadrenocorticism, inflammation
Hypoadrenocorticism or Addison's disease (AD) is a functional disorder in which insufficient mineralocorticoid and glucocorticoid hormones are produced by the adrenal cortex. Human AD is usually attributed to lymphoplasmacytic adrenalitis with autoimmune destruction of the adrenal cortex. Lymphoplasmacytic adrenalitis is also reported in some descriptions of canine AD; however, the histological aspects of adrenalitis or adrenocortical atrophy have not been well characterized because microscopical examination is not required for diagnosis of AD. In this study, sections of adrenal glands from 33 dogs with adrenalitis were compared with those of 37 dogs without adrenal lesions. The affected dogs were classified clinically as having AD (n = 3), being suspected of having AD (n = 17), not having AD (n = 11) or were unclassified (n = 2). The adrenal inflammation was lymphoplasmacytic in 17 dogs, lymphocytic in four, lymphohistiocytic in one, granulomatous in three and neutrophilic in eight cases. Adrenal glands from control dogs lacked leucocyte infiltration and had a cortical to medullary area ratio of 1.1–7.2. All three dogs with AD, 8/17 dogs with suspected AD and 1/11 dogs without AD had a cortical to medullary area ratio <1.1. Because the area ratio was correlated (r = 0.94) with a linear cortical to medullary thickness ratio, a thickness ratio <1.1 could also indicate severe adrenocortical atrophy. Severe adrenocortical atrophy was associated typically with lymphoplasmacytic infiltration and nearly complete loss of cortical cells; however, the zona glomerulosa was partially spared in three dogs with lymphoplasmacytic adrenalitis and severe cortical atrophy. In contrast, non-lymphoid inflammation was generally part of systemic disease, multifocal and was unaccompanied by severe adrenocortical atrophy.