A Rare and Fatal Case of Hemophagocytic Lymphohistiocytosis Associated with Sarcoidosis

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Am J Case Rep


BACKGROUND Sarcoidosis is a systemic inflammatory disorder characterized by a classic pathologic feature of non-caseating granulomas involving any organ system. Hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis (HLH) is a catastrophic cytokine surge characterized by dysregulation of the macrophage response, which can be rapidly fatal. Recognition of HLH has been increasing over the past decade. HLH can present with features of sepsis that can make the diagnosis challenging and requires high clinical suspicion. CASE REPORT We report a case of a 48-year-old African American male with a past medical history of sarcoidosis infiltrating the lymph nodes, liver, and bone marrow with initial presentation of abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting, and weight loss of 100 pounds over 8 months. Sepsis was suspected, but the patient clinically deteriorated with vancomycin and cefepime. Fevers, bone marrow biopsy, anemia, thrombocytopenia, elevated ferritin, and elevated soluble receptor interleukin 2 confirmed HLH. The patient was treated with etoposide and dexamethasone with poor response and died from cardiac arrest. CONCLUSIONS Sarcoidosis associated with HLH is an extremely rare phenomenon with only 10 cases reported in the literature. Early clinical suspicion can be challenging as this condition is a sepsis-mimicker. To reduce mortality, prompt initiation of therapy is a key determinant in patients who are clinically deteriorating despite treatment for sepsis.

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