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S Gajree, S Borooah, N Dhillon, C Goudie, C Smith, P Aspinall, B Dhillon
Journal Issue: 
Volume 47: Issue 2: 2017




Temporal artery biopsy is the gold standard investigation for the diagnosis of giant cell arteritis. The aim of this retrospective study was to investigate the use of temporal artery biopsy in diagnosing giant cell arteritis in south-east Scotland over a five-year period. We aimed to quantify success rates, and predictive factors for a positive biopsy, as well as compare the different specialities performing the biopsies. The data should enable the development of better criteria for referral for investigation of giant cell arteritis.

Methods Patients were identified using a database of temporal artery biopsies generated by the pathology department in NHS Lothian (south east Scotland), for all biopsies examined between January 2010 and December 2015. An electronic patient record was used to retrospectively examine the records of patients in the database.

Results A total of 715 biopsies were included in the study, of which 250 (35.0%) showed features of giant cell arteritis. The main predictors for a positive biopsy were age at biopsy, specialty performing biopsy, erythrocyte sedimentation rate, jaw claudication/pain, and ophthalmic symptoms. The most important predictor of a positive biopsy was erythrocyte sedimentation rate. The length of biopsy was not found to be a predictor of positive biopsy; however, diameter of biopsy was predictive.

Conclusions We have shown that many temporal artery biopsies are negative, and finding ways to reduce the number of patients unnecessarily undergoing biopsy will be essential in reducing workload and streamlining services. This study demonstrates some key predictive factors for patients with positive biopsies. The study also shows that a large proportion of biopsies taking place do not result in the recommended length of specimen, but this does not necessarily reduce the likelihood of a positive biopsy.