The Full Wiki

Giant cell arteritis: Wikis


Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Giant cell arteritis
Classification and external resources

The arteries of the face and scalp.
ICD-10 M31.5-M31.6
ICD-9 446.5
DiseasesDB 12938
eMedicine neuro/592
MeSH D013700

Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is an inflammatory disease of blood vessels (most commonly large and medium arteries of the head). It is a form of vasculitis.

The name (giant cell arteritis) reflects the type of inflammatory cell that is involved[1] (as seen on biopsy).

The terms "Giant cell arteritis" and "temporal arteritis" are sometimes used interchangeably, because of the frequent involvement of the temporal artery. However, it can involve other large vessels (such as the aorta in "giant cell aortitis".[2] Giant cell arteritis of the temporal artery is referred to as "temporal arteritis," and is also known as "Cranial arteritis" and "Horton's disease."[3]:840


Associated conditions

The disorder may coexist (in one quarter of cases) with polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR), which is characterized by sudden onset of pain and stiffness in muscles (pelvis, shoulder) of the body and is seen in the elderly. GCA and PMR are so closely linked that they are often considered to be different manifestations of the same disease process. Other diseases related with temporal arteritis are systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis and severe infections.


It is more common in females than males by a ratio of 3:1. The mean age of onset is about 70 years, and it is rare in those less than 50 years of age.

Patients present with bruits:

The inflammation may affect blood supply to the eye and blurred vision or sudden blindness may occur. In 76% of cases involving the eye, the ophthalmic artery is involved causing anterior ischemic optic neuropathy.[6] Loss of vision in both eyes may occur very abruptly and this disease is therefore a medical emergency.



Physical exam

  • Palpation of the head reveals prominent temporal arteries with or without pulsation.
  • The temporal area may be tender.
  • Decreased pulses may be found throughout the body.
  • Evidence of ischemia may be noted on fundal exam.

Laboratory tests


The gold standard for diagnosing temporal arteritis is biopsy, which involves removing a small part of the vessel and examining it microscopically for giant cells infiltrating the tissue. Since the blood vessels are involved in a patchy pattern, there may be unaffected areas on the vessel and the biopsy might have been taken from these parts. Unilateral biopsy of a 1.5-3 cm length is 85-90% sensitive. So, a negative result does not definitely rule out the diagnosis.

Imaging studies

Radiological examination of the temporal artery with ultrasound yields a halo sign. Contrast enhanced brain MRI and CT is generally negative in this disorder. Recent studies have shown that 3T MRI using super high resolution imaging and contrast injection can non-invasively diagnose this disorder with high specificity and sensitivity.[7]


Corticosteroids, typically high-dose prednisone (40–60 mg bd), must be started as soon as the diagnosis is suspected (even before the diagnosis is confirmed by biopsy) to prevent irreversible blindness secondary to ophthalmic artery occlusion. Steroids do not prevent the diagnosis from later being confirmed by biopsy, although certain changes in the histology may be observed towards the end of the first week of treatment and are more difficult to identify after a couple of months.[8] The dose of prednisone is lowered after a 2–4 weeks, and slowly tapered over the course of 9–12 months. Oral steroids are at least as effective as intra venous steroids,[9] except in the treatment of acute visual loss where intravenous steroids appear to offer significant benefit over oral steroids [10]


  1. ^ giant cell arteritis at Dorland's Medical Dictionary
  2. ^ Walter MA, Melzer RA, Graf M, Tyndall A, Müller-Brand J, Nitzsche EU (May 2005). "[18FFDG-PET of giant-cell aortitis"]. Rheumatology (Oxford) 44 (5): 690–1. doi:10.1093/rheumatology/keh551. PMID 15728420.  
  3. ^ James, William D.; Berger, Timothy G.; et al. (2006). Andrews' Diseases of the Skin: clinical Dermatology. Saunders Elsevier. ISBN 0-7216-2921-0.  
  4. ^ Moutray TN, Williams MA, Best JL (August 2008). "Suspected giant cell arteritis: a study of referrals for temporal artery biopsy" (PDF). Can. J. Ophthalmol. 43 (4): 445–8. doi:10.1139/i08-070. PMID 18711459.  
  5. ^ Sainuddin S, Saeed NR (December 2008). "Acute bilateral tongue necrosis – a case report". Br J Oral Maxillofac Surg 46 (8): 671–2. PMID 18499311.  
  6. ^ Hayreh (April 3, 2003). "Ocular Manifestations of GCA". Retrieved 2007-10-15.  
  7. ^ Bley TA, Uhl M, Carew J, et al. (October 2007). "Diagnostic value of high-resolution MR imaging in giant cell arteritis". AJNR Am J Neuroradiol 28 (9): 1722–7. doi:10.3174/ajnr.A0638. PMID 17885247.  
  8. ^ Font RL, Prabhakaran VC (2007). "Histological parameters helpful in recognising steroid-treated temporal arteritis: an analysis of 35 cases". The British journal of ophthalmology 91 (2): 204–9. doi:10.1136/bjo.2006.101725. PMID 16987903.  
  9. ^ "BestBets: Steroids and Temporal Arteritis".  
  10. ^ Chan CC, Paine M, O'Day J.Br J Ophthalmol. 2001 Sep;85(9):1061-4.

External links


Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address