Lymph nodes & spleen, nonlymphoid
Lymph nodes-inflammatory disorders
Chronic lymphadenitis

Topic Completed: 1 February 2016

Minor changes: 31 July 2020

Revised: 4 February 2019, last major update February 2016

Copyright: 2003-2020,, Inc.

PubMed Search: Chronic lymphadenitis[TIAB]

Jayalakshmi Balakrishna, M.D.
Page views in 2019: 8,049
Page views in 2020 to date: 4,890
Cite this page: Balakrishna J. Chronic lymphadenitis. website. Accessed August 8th, 2020.
Definition / general
  • Common, chronic inflammatory process of lymph nodes in response to various pathogens
  • May be specific or nonspecific, known or unknown
  • Lymph nodes show variable amounts of necrosis, abscesses, granulomas and fibrosis
Essential features
  • Nonspecific etiology
  • General histological features are follicular hyperplasia, prominence of postcapillary venules, increased number of immunoblasts, plasma cells, histiocytes and fibrosis
  • Also called chronic nonspecific lymphadenitis
  • Cervical or any other lymph node groups can be affected
Clinical features
  • Enlarged lymph nodes (by palpation or imaging)
  • Painless
  • Biopsy and clinical history are necessary
  • Adjuvant diagnostic methods such as special stains, electron microscopy, immunohistochemistry, in situ hybridization analysis and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) techniques help delineate specific causative factors
  • Specific findings depend on the etiology
Prognostic factors
  • Good prognosis in general, although prognosis and treatment vary based on specific etiology
Clinical images

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Gross description
  • Enlarged lymph node
  • Capsule may be thickened
Microscopic (histologic) description
  • Follicular hyperplasia, prominence of postcapillary venules, increased number of immunoblasts, plasma cells and histiocytes and fibrosis
  • Capsule may be inflamed or fibrotic
  • Inflammation / fibrosis may extend into the immediate perinodal tissues
  • Terms such as xanthogranulomatous lymphadenitis and eosinophilic lymphadenitis are used to describe cases with undue prominence of eosinophils, foamy macrophages or mast cells
Microscopic (histologic) images

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Dermatopathic lymphadenopathy

Cytology description
  • Smear derived from reactive follicle: centroblasts, centrocytes, small lymphocytes and tingible body macrophages with nuclear fragments
  • Paracortical hyperplasia: spectrum of basophilic cells, ranging from mature plasma cells to immunoblasts with a background of many small lymphocytes
Positive stains
  • T cell and B cell markers show reactive pattern
Negative stains
  • Special stains for microorganisms
  • Immunohistochemical stains / patterns for lymphoma
Flow cytometry description
  • Reactive pattern: mixed / polyclonal population
Differential diagnosis
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