Extracapillary proliferation and fibrinoid necrosis are the main diagnostic glomerular lesions in renal biopsy specimens of patients with idiopathic systemic vasculitis. Neither the incidence nor the correlation between extracapillary proliferation and fibrinoid necrosis in renal biopsy specimens from patients with systemic vasculitis has been systematically evaluated. By means of a three-dimensional analysis, we made a topographic reconstruction of the distribution of extracapillary proliferation and fibrinoid necrosis in affected glomeruli and tested different biopsy-processing protocols to optimize histopathologic analysis in clinical practice. Paraffin blocks of renal biopsy specimens from six patients diagnosed with systemic vasculitis were completely and serially sectioned in 2-microm thick sections and stained with the Gomori trichrome method. Glomeruli were scored per section for the presence of fibrinoid necrosis and extracapillary proliferation. Subsequently, a three-dimensional reconstruction was obtained for 87 glomeruli. In only one glomerulus did fibrinoid necrosis occur without extracapillary proliferation; in 51%, a combination of the two lesions was found; in 22%, extracapillary proliferation occurred in the absence of fibrinoid necrosis; and 26% did not show either lesion. Using the standard protocol from our department (ie, evaluation of 20 consecutive sections in various stainings), the chance of finding extracapillary proliferation was 100% and that of finding fibrinoid necrosis was 73%. If 5 sections stained with the Gomori trichrome were added, the latter percentage increased to 86%. Using skip-serial sections, even better results (87% to 92%) were obtained, with four skips as the best option (92%). In conclusion, our finding that fibrinoid necrosis rarely occurs in the absence of extracapillary proliferation may imply that both lesions are etiologically related. In addition, our observations indicate that the incidence of fibrinoid necrosis may be underestimated in clinical practice, depending on the number of sections evaluated.