BACKGROUND/OBJECTIVES: Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is a medical and ophthalmological emergency due to risk of stroke and sudden irreversible loss of vision. Fast and accurate diagnosis is important to prevent complications and long-term high dose glucocorticoids toxicity. Temporal artery biopsy is gold standard for diagnosing GCA. However, temporal artery ultrasound is a fast and non-invasive procedure which may provide a supplement or an alternative to biopsy. This study assesses the diagnostic performance of ultrasound and biopsy in the diagnosis of GCA.
SUBJECTS/METHODS: Examination results of patients suspected of having GCA in the period from August 2018 to June 2019 were reviewed. Patients underwent clinical examination and blood tests. Within a few days of starting glucocorticoid treatment, temporal ultrasound and unilateral biopsy were performed. Experienced physicians established the final clinical diagnosis at 6-months follow-up.
RESULTS: Seventy-eight patients underwent both ultrasound and biopsy. Thirty-five (45%) received the final clinical diagnosis of GCA. Compared with the final clinical diagnosis, biopsy had a sensitivity of 69% (51-83%) and a specificity of 100% (92-100%), and ultrasound a sensitivity of 63% (45-79%) and a specificity of 79% (64-94%). Area under the receiver operating characteristics curves were 0.84 and 0.71 for biopsy and ultrasound respectively (p = 0.048). False negative rate of ultrasound was 4 out of 78 (5%).
CONCLUSION: Sensitivity of ultrasound is almost on par with that of biopsy although the overall diagnostic accuracy of ultrasound was slightly lower. We find that ultrasound is a reliable tool for first line diagnosis of GCA.