Improving therapeutic options for patients with giant cell arteritis

Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2008 Jan;20(1):17-22. doi: 10.1097/BOR.0b013e3282f31769.


Purpose of review: Glucocorticoids remain the mainstay of treatment of giant cell arteritis. The aim of this review is to establish the optimal schedule of glucocorticoid administration, and to ascertain which other treatments may be used as glucocorticoid-sparing agents.

Recent findings: An initial dose of 40-60 mg/day of prednisone is usually adequate. Patients at risk of developing ischemic complications require dosages of around 1 mg/kg/day, whereas pulse glucocorticoid therapy is no more effective in preventing ischemic complications. In patients with longstanding disease or those at risk for glucocorticoid-related adverse events, methotrexate or azathioprine can be used as glucocorticoid-sparing drugs. Infliximab has been demonstrated to be efficacious in glucocorticoid-resistant disease in an open study, whereas a randomized controlled trial showed no efficacy in patients with recent-onset disease. Finally, two retrospective studies suggest that low-dose aspirin may decrease the rate of cranial ischemic complications secondary to giant cell arteritis.

Summary: Glucocorticoids remain the cornerstone of therapy for giant cell arteritis. To achieve maximal efficacy but minimize glucocorticoid-related adverse reactions, dosage should be individually tailored. In patients with longstanding, recalcitrant disease, methotrexate, azathioprine or tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibitors may be considered. Aspirin is recommended in all patients unless contraindicated. Osteoporosis prophylaxis should also be regularly implemented.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Azathioprine / therapeutic use
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Drug Therapy, Combination
  • Giant Cell Arteritis / drug therapy*
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage*
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppressive Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Infliximab
  • Methotrexate / therapeutic use
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha / antagonists & inhibitors


  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Immunosuppressive Agents
  • Tumor Necrosis Factor-alpha
  • Infliximab
  • Azathioprine
  • Methotrexate