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Objective

Color Doppler ultrasonography (CDUS) can detect inflammation in the vessel wall. No studies have evaluated the examination of the common carotid artery by CDUS in the diagnostics of giant cell arteritis (GCA). Our aim was to evaluate the combination of CDUS examination of the temporal, axillary, and common carotid arteries in the diagnosis of GCA.

Methods

Patients ages ≥50 years who were referred to our department between April 2010 and October 2012 and suspected to have GCA were consecutively examined. A positive clinical evaluation for GCA 6 months after the first evaluation by 3 rheumatologists was considered as the gold diagnostic standard. All patients underwent CDUS of the temporal, axillary, and common carotid arteries. A biopsy of the temporal artery was performed for most patients.

Results

A total of 88 patients were assessed. Forty-six patients were diagnosed to have GCA by the defined gold standard. Forty-eight patients had a positive CDUS of the temporal artery. Forty-six patients diagnosed with GCA had a positive CDUS of the temporal, common carotid, and axillary arteries (100% sensitivity) and 4 patients had a positive CDUS without having GCA (91% specificity). Among the 39 GCA patients that underwent a biopsy, vasculitis was observed in 26 patients (66%), yielding a sensitivity of 67% and a specificity of 95%.

Conclusion

CDUS of the common carotid, axillary, and temporal arteries had an excellent sensitivity and high specificity to diagnose GCA. CDUS has the potential to replace biopsy in ordinary clinical care without compromising on sensitivity and specificity.