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Open Access Case report

A case of granulomatosis with polyangiitis complicated by cyclophosphamide toxicity and opportunistic infections: choosing between Scylla and Charybdis

Elena Ernst, Matthias Girndt and Rainer U Pliquett*

Author Affiliations

Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg, Clinic of Internal Medicine 2, Department of Nephrology, Ernst-Grube-Str. 40, 06120 Halle (Saale), Germany

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BMC Nephrology 2014, 15:28  doi:10.1186/1471-2369-15-28

Published: 4 February 2014



We report a case of progressive Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (Wegener’s Granulomatosis) with life-threatening complications of both the underlying disease and induction immunosuppressive therapy. Here, for the first time, cyclophosphamide toxicity and severe opportunistic infections including pneumocystis jirovecii- pneumonia were found in one case in a close temporal relationship.

Case presentation

A 34-year-old male patient of Caucasian ethnicity presented with acute renal failure necessitating hemodialysis treatment due to Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis (Wegener’s Granulomatosis). Kidney disease progressed to end-stage renal disease shortly after first diagnosis. After the 2nd bolus of cyclophosphamide shortly, induction immunosuppression (glucocorticoid/cyclophosphamide) was interrupted for repeat infections and resumed 5 years later. By that time, the lungs developed large pulmonary cavernae most likely due to smoldering granuloma indicative for the failed goal of disease remission. Therefore, induction immunosuppression was resumed. Following two monthly boli of cyclophosphamide, the patient developed pericardial effusion and, consecutively, atrioventricular blockade most likely due to cyclophosphamide. After recovery, the patient was discharged without cotrimoxacole. 10 weeks after the last cyclophosphamide bolus and 6 weeks after cessation of cotrimoxacole, the patient was readmitted to the intensive-care unit with Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia, and died 6 months later or 74 months after first diagnosis of Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis.


This case illustrates both the need for adequate immunosuppressive therapy to reach disease remission and the limitations thereof in terms of complications including cardiotoxicity of cyclophosphamide and Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia. In line with current recommendations, the present case strongly encourages pneumocystis jirovecii- pneumonia chemoprophylaxis for at least 6 months following induction therapy in Granulomatosis with Polyangiitis.

Cyclophosphamide toxicity; Granulomatosis with polyangiitis; Immunosuppression; Opportunistic infections