The length of superficial temporal artery biopsies

ANZ J Surg. 2007 Jun;77(6):437-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1445-2197.2007.04090.x.


Background: To compare temporal artery biopsy specimen lengths from a tertiary care and a community hospital in New South Wales to recommended clinical guidelines in suspected giant cell arteritis.

Design: A retrospective observational study of all patients who underwent temporal artery biopsy at Bathurst Base Hospital (BBH) and Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) over a 5-year period.

Methods: Patients who underwent temporal artery biopsy during the 5-year period were identified using computerized hospital databases. A retrospective chart review was carried out on all cases. Data were collected regarding patient age, patient sex, length of biopsy specimen, histopathological results and surgical team carrying out the biopsy.

Results: During the 5-year period, 157 temporal artery biopsies were carried out at both hospitals, with 38/157(24%) at BBH and 119/157 (76%) at RPAH. There was no significant difference in biopsy length at the two hospitals. The mean specimen length at BBH was 12.1 mm compared with 11.7 mm at RPAH (t=0.35; P=0.73). At RPAH, there was no significant difference in specimen length between the surgical specialties carrying out the biopsy (ANOVA F=1.37; P=0.26). Specimens of length 20 mm or greater were 2.8 times more likely to show features of giant cell arteritis than those less than 20 mm.

Conclusion: The mean length of temporal artery biopsy specimens at both hospitals was substantially shorter than recommended guidelines of a minimum 20 mm. We recommend all surgeons carrying out temporal artery biopsies ensure a specimen of sufficient length is obtained.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Biopsy / methods*
  • Female
  • Giant Cell Arteritis / pathology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Temporal Arteries / pathology*