Objective: Previous studies have confirmed the poor correlation of symptoms, signs, and levels of acute-phase reactants with disease activity in approximately 50% of all patients with Takayasu arteritis (TA). Invasive angiographic studies demonstrate vessel lumen anatomy, but do not provide qualitative information about the vessel wall. Moreover, sequential invasive angiographic studies expose patients to high-dose ionizing radiation and catheter/procedure-related morbidity. The aim of the present study was to determine the utility of new developments in vascular magnetic resonance (MR) technology in patients with TA.
Methods: Electrocardiogram-gated "edema-weighted" MR was used to evaluate the aorta and its primary branches with regard to the vascular lumen, vessel wall anatomy, and vessel wall edema in 24 TA patients (77 studies). Inclusion criteria were age <50 years and features of TA on both clinical examination and invasive angiographic studies. Patients were stratified based on clinical and laboratory indications of having either unequivocally active disease, inactive disease, or uncertain disease status.
Results: MR revealed vessel wall edema in 94% (17 of 18), 81% (13 of 16), and 56% (24 of 43) of studies obtained during periods of unequivocally active disease, uncertain disease activity, and apparent clinical remission, respectively. Westergren erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein values did not correlate with either the clinical assessment of disease activity or MR evidence of vascular edema. The frequency of presumed vascular inflammation (edema), as assessed by MR, in patients who appeared to be in remission was similar to the reported frequency of new angiographic lesions and histopathologic evidence of active disease in surgical specimens from patients thought to be in remission. However, the presence of edema within vessel walls did not consistently correlate with the occurrence of new anatomic changes found on subsequent studies.
Conclusion: Inconsistencies in the presence or absence of vessel edema and subsequent anatomic changes have cast doubt on the utility of edema-weighted MR imaging as a sole guide to disease activity and treatment in TA. In this study, the greatest utility of MR was in providing a safe, noninvasive means of assessing changes in vascular anatomy.