The relation between immunohistological findings in biopsy specimens of apparently normal skin, HLA antigens, and rheumatoid factors (RF) was studied in 120 patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA), selected for treatment with D-penicillamine. Perivascular infiltration (PVI) of more than three mononuclear cells was present in 77 (68%) of 114 patients, accompanied usually by the presence of IgM or C3, or both, in immunofluorescence studies. The number of perivascular cells was associated significantly with the titre of circulating RF. A weak relation of both perivascular cellular infiltration and RF with HLA-DR3 and DR4 did not reach statistical significance. It is concluded that the histological presence of perivascular inflammation is associated mainly with deposition of RF. It is suggested that the first is merely an epiphenomenon of the latter. PVI was not prognostic for the occurrence of the clinical syndrome of rheumatoid vasculitis. For practical purposes skin biopsies do not appear to be useful in the evaluation of individual patients with RA.
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