Purpose: Horton disease or 'giant cell arteritis' is a known entity in its typical form; the difficulty in diagnosis is due to the atypical signs and symptoms.
Methods: We review 260 medical files presenting Horton disease between 1979 and 1999 in five different departments: three internal medicine departments, one rheumatology department and one geriatric department.
Results: The study shows a female domination with a mean age of 75 years. Temporal artery biopsy was done on all patients. Ten patients presented a vascular manifestation. The neurological manifestation was the first symptom in four patients. Five patients had cutaneous symptomatology, with positive temporal artery in three cases. Renal manifestation was present in two patients. Two symptoms are important to discuss because of their frequency: the cough and the peripheral arthritis. We found nine observations with arthritis affecting large joints and responding to nonsteroidal antiinflammatories with positive temporal artery biopsy in seven patients, and 21 observations manifesting by cough without radiological signs; in 57% of cases the temporal artery biopsy was positive, and the cough regressed with corticoids.
Conclusion: These atypical symptoms have to be known to make a diagnosis and to begin a corticotherapy as soon as possible.