Objective: To assess the frequency and clinical features of biopsy-proven giant cell arteritis (GCA) patients who had fever at the time of diagnosis of the disease, and the relationship between fever, ischemic complications, and the systemic inflammatory response in GCA.
Methods: A retrospective study of biopsy-proven GCA patients diagnosed between 1981 and 2001 was performed at the single referral hospital for a well-defined population in the Lugo region of northwest Spain. Patients were considered as having fever if the axillary temperature at the time of admission or during the followup prior to the onset of corticosteroid therapy was > or =38 degrees C.
Results: During the period of study, 21 (10%) of the 210 biopsy-proven GCA patients had fever. Two of them fulfilled criteria for fever of unknown origin. Patients with fever had a lower frequency of severe ischemic manifestations than the rest of biopsy-proven GCA patients. They also exhibited a more severe inflammatory disease, with significant abnormality in most laboratory variables, including higher elevation of erythrocyte sedimentation rate, lower values of hemoglobin, and higher proportion of patients with increased alkaline phosphatase. By logistic regression analysis, we observed that patients with fever had an increased risk of developing anemia (odds ratio [OR] 12.24). In contrast, a negative association between severe ischemic manifestations and fever was found (OR 0.41).
Conclusion: Biopsy-proven GCA patients with fever constitute a subgroup of patients with more severe inflammatory response and less ischemic disease.