Objective: To address the incidence of varicella-zoster virus (VZV) infection in patients with biopsy-negative giant cell arteritis (GCA), we examined archived biopsy-negative temporal arteries from subjects with clinically suspected GCA for the presence of VZV antigen.
Methods: Formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded temporal arteries that were pathologically negative for GCA and normal temporal arteries were analyzed immunohistochemically for VZV and herpes simplex virus-1 (HSV-1) antigen.
Results: Five (21%) of 24 temporal arteries from patients who were clinically suspect but biopsy negative for GCA revealed VZV but not HSV-1 by immunohistochemical analysis. Thirteen normal temporal arteries did not contain VZV or HSV-1 antigen. All 5 subjects whose temporal arteries contained VZV antigen presented with clinical and laboratory features of GCA and early visual disturbances.
Conclusion: Multifocal VZV vasculopathy can present with the full spectrum of clinical features and laboratory abnormalities characteristically seen in GCA.