Temporal arteritis or giant cell arteritis is a form of systemic inflammatory vasculitis closely associated with polymyalgia rheumatica. It may have serious systemic, neurologic, and ophthalmic consequences as it may lead to impaired vision and blindness. Definitive diagnosis is made after histopathologic analysis of a superficial temporal artery (TA) biopsy, which requires a small surgical procedure often under local anesthesia. We investigated whether a noninvasive technique such as duplex ultrasound of the TA could replace histopathological analysis.
Eighty-one patients referred to our department for TA biopsy were first screened with a duplex ultrasound for a surrounding halo and/or occlusion of the TA. Presence of visual disturbances and unilateral pain (headache and/or tongue/jaw claudication) was noted before TA biopsy. Pathological analysis was considered the gold standard. Correlation between duplex findings, symptoms, and pathology was determined by Spearman’s Rho test. The predictive value of a halo and TA occlusion on duplex were determined by ROC curve analysis.
A halo or TA occlusion was found in 16.0% and 3.7% of patients, respectively. Unilateral pain was reported in 96% of cases while 82% complained of visual disturbances. Correlation coefficients for halo and occlusion were 0.471 and 0.404, respectively (P < 0.0001), suggesting a moderate correlation between duplex and biopsy. There was no significant correlation between visual impairment or pain and histologic findings. The ROC curve analysis showed a sensitivity of 53.3% and 20.0%, and specificity of 91.9% and 100% for presence of a halo and occlusion of the TA on duplex, respectively.
Arterial duplex is a moderately sensitive but highly specific test for exclusion of temporal arteritis. We observed a moderate correlation between these findings on duplex and histopathological analysis as a gold standard. Arterial duplex may serve as a valuable diagnostic addition to prevent unnecessary surgical procedures and can even substitute biopsy in patients where surgery is not an option.