Pathogenesis, diagnosis, and management of Kikuchi-Fujimoto disease

Darcie Deaver, Pedro Horna, Hernani Cualing, Lubomir Sokol

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Scopus citations


Background: Kikuchi-Fujimoto disease (KFD) is a rare lymphohistiocytic disorder with an unknown etiopathogenesis. This disease is misdiagnosed as malignant lymphoma in up to one-third of cases and is associated with the development of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).

Methods: The medical literature between the years 1972 and 2014 was searched for KFD, and the data were collected and analyzed regarding the epidemiology, clinical presentations, diagnosis, management, and suggested diagnostic and treatment algorithms.

Results: Although KFD has been reported in other ethnic groups and geographical areas, it is more frequently diagnosed in young women of Asian descent. Patients with the disease typically present with rapidly evolving tender cervical lymphadenopathy, night sweats, fevers, and headache. Diagnosis is based on histopathological examination. Excisional lymph node biopsy is essential for a correct diagnosis. Apoptotic coagulation necrosis with karyorrhectic debris and the proliferation of histiocytes, plasmacytoid dendritic cells, and CD8+ T cells in the absence of neutrophils are characteristic cytomorphology features. Interface dermatitis at the onset of KFD may be a marker for the subsequent evolution of SLE. The natural course of the disease is typically benign. Short courses of steroids, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or hydroxychloroquine can be administered to patients with more severe symptoms.

Conclusions: Although KFD was described more than 40 years ago, the etiology of this disease remains unsolved. Infectious or autoimmune processes were proposed but have not been definitively confirmed. Clinical presentation with systemic B symptoms and adenopathy may lead to an erroneous diagnosis of malignant lymphoma. The introduction of modern methods into hematopathology, including immunohistochemistry, flow cytometry, and molecular clonality studies, has decreased the probability of misdiagnosis. Until reliable prognostic markers are available, patients with KFD should have continued long-term follow-up care due to their increased risk of SLE.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)313-321
Number of pages9
JournalCancer Control
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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