Objective: To investigate the involvement of arteries other than the temporal arteries in active giant cell arteritis using color Doppler sonography.
Methods: The occipital, facial, vertebral, carotid, subclavian, axillary, brachial, ulnar radial, femoral, popliteal, posterior tibial, and dorsal pedal arteries, and the abdominal aorta of 33 consecutive patients with acute giant cell arteritis and 33 age- and sex-matched controls were investigated.
Results: In 10 patients (30%), but in none of the controls, a characteristic inflammatory mural thickening (halo) could be demonstrated in these arteries. The subclavian, external carotid, and/or facial arteries were involved in 4 patients, the occipital and/or axillary arteries in 3 patients, the brachial and/or ulnar arteries in 2 patients, and the common carotid, vertebral, popliteal, and/or radial arteries in 1 patient each. Two patients had symptomatic large vessel giant cell arteritis with arm claudication. The other patients were asymptomatic concerning the involved arteries. Furthermore the ulnar artery was occluded in 3 cases, the posterior tibial artery in 2 cases, and the dorsal pedal and the vertebral artery in 1 case each. No occlusions were found in the controls. Occlusion of the temporal arteries occurred more frequently in patients with peripheral artery involvement than in those without peripheral involvement (60% versus 26%). In most of the non-stenotic, small arteries the halo disappeared within 9 to 21 days. Mural thickening remained in large, stenotic arteries.
Conclusion: Peripheral artery involvement occurs more frequently in acute temporal arteritis than has been assumed up to now. Color Doppler sonography offers a new method to evaluate this peripheral involvement.