Objective: To evaluate the diagnostic value of colour-duplex ultrasonography (CDU) of the temporal and ophthalmic arteries in the diagnosis of giant cell arteritis (GCA) and its usefulness in the follow-up of the disease. Furthermore, to examine the relationship between CDU abnormalities in ophthalmic arteries and blindness.
Methods: This is a prospective study of all patients with clinical suspicion of GCA or polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) seen consecutively at the Internal Medicine Department at Vall d'Hebron University Hospital, Spain, between March 2003 and July 2006. Patients were evaluated with regard to the sensitivity and specificity of the dark halo sign in the temporal artery for the diagnosis of GCA, as well as the sensitivity and specificity of the presence of stenosis in temporal and/or ophthalmic arteries. Additionally, the usefulness of the dark halo sign in the follow-up of GCA was addressed.
Results: Forty-seven patients (30 with GCA, 17 with PMR) and 13 controls were included in the study. The sensitivity and specificity for the diagnosis of biopsy-proven GCA were higher for the temporal halo (72% in both cases) than for temporal artery stenosis (41% and 89%, respectively), or for ophthalmic artery stenosis (58% and 89%, respectively). Disappearance of the halo was observed in 50% of patients six months after diagnosis, although all patients were in clinical remission, and laboratory parameters were within normal values.
Conclusion: CDU of the temporal arteries may be a valid tool in the diagnosis of GCA. However, its role in the follow up of the disease deserves re-evaluation. CDU of the ophthalmic arteries is less useful for CGA diagnosis and no relationship with blindness is suspected.