Giant cell arteritis

Case contributed by Dr Christoph Berliner


Suspicion of giant cell arteritis and recent new headaches. No anti-inflammatory treatment. Normal ophthalmological exam.

Patient Data

Age: 75 years
Gender: Male

High resolution MRI of superficial temporal artery and regular thoracic angiography

Axial T1C+ FS scan of the extracranial arteries demonstrates mural thickening and bilateral mural contrast enhancement of the superficial temporal arteries.

Mild chronic frontal/ethmoidal sinusitis is shown.

Normal presentation of the thoracic vessels.

Case Discussion

Giant cell arteritis (GCA) with typical involvement of the superficial temporal artery is the commonest vasculitis in a Caucasian population. Biopsy is the de facto "gold standard" for diagnosis, however assessment with high resolution contrast enhanced and fat saturated T1- MRI is possible and can also be used for monitoring during/following anti-inflammatory/immunosuppressive therapy. Unlike a biopsy, of course, MRI allows simultaneous assessment of all superficial artery segments.

A symmetrical and simultaneous vascular inflammation of superficial cranial arteries is the typical pattern. MRI imaging signs may vanish after 5-7 days of systemic anti-inflammatory therapy with steroids.

For ranking of mural contrast enhancement, the following four-point scale proposed by Bley et al. can be used:

-, no enhancement; +, slight mural enhancement; ++, prominent mural enhancement; and +++, strong mural enhancement, including perivascular tissue.

NB: for the thickness of the superficial temporal artery wall, the cut-off between unaffected and inflamed arteries is 0.6-0.7 mm.

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Case information

rID: 27998
Published: 19th May 2015
Last edited: 14th Aug 2019
System: Head & Neck
Inclusion in quiz mode: Included

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