Purpose: This study was performed to investigate the value of( 18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose positron emission tomography ([(18)F]FDG-PET) in the diagnosis of large-vessel vasculitis and the assessment of activity and extent of disease.
Methods: Twenty-six consecutive patients (21 females, 5 males; median age - years, range 17-86 years) with giant cell arteritis or Takayasu's arteritis were examined with [(18)F]FDG-PET. Follow-up scans were performed in four patients. Twenty-six age- and gender-matched controls (21 females, 5 males; median age 71 years, range 17-86 years) were included. The severity of large-vessel [(18)F]FDG uptake was visually graded using a four-point scale. C-reactive protein (CRP) and the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) were measured and correlated with [(18)F]FDG-PET results by logistic regression.
Results: [(18)F]FDG-PET revealed pathological findings in 18 of 26 patients. Three scans were categorised as grade I, 12 as grade II and 3 as grade III arteritis. Visual grade was significantly correlated with both CRP and ESR levels (p=0.002 and 0.007 respectively; grade I: CRP 4.0 mg/l, ESR 6 mm/h; grade II: CRP 37 mg/l, ESR 46 mm/h; grade III: CRP 172 mg/l, ESR 90 mm/h). Overall sensitivity was 60% (95% CI 40.6-77.3%), specificity 99.8% (95% CI 89.1-100%), positive predictive value 99.7% (95% CI 77-100%), negative predictive value 67.9% (95% CI 49.8-80.9%) and accuracy 78.6% (95% CI 65.6-88.4%). In patients presenting with a CRP <12 mg/l or an ESR <12 mm/h, logistic regression revealed a sensitivity of less than 50%. In patients with high CRP/ESR levels, sensitivity was 95.5%/80.7%.
Conclusion: [(18)F]FDG-PET is highly effective in assessing the activity and the extent of large-vessel vasculitis. Visual grading was validated as representing the severity of inflammation. Its use is simple and provides high specificity, while high sensitivity is achieved by scanning in the state of active inflammation.