Objectives: To investigate the effectiveness of a fast track pathway (FTP) on sight loss in patients with suspected giant cell arteritis (GCA).
Methods: A longitudinal observational cohort study was conducted in the secondary care rheumatology department. One hundred and thirty-five newly referred suspected GCA patients seen via the FTP (Jan. 2012-Dec. 2013) were compared to 81 patients seen through the conventional referral and review system (Jan. 2009-Dec. 2011).
Results: The FTP resulted in significant reduction in irreversible sight loss from 37.0% (as seen in the historical cohort 2009-2011) to 9.0 % (2012-2013, OR 0.17, p=0.001). Adjustment for clinical and demographic parameters including known risk factors for GCA associated blindness did not significantly change the primary result (OR 0.08, p=0.001). FTP resulted in a reduction of time from symptom onset to diagnosis, particularly by reduction of time from general practitioner's (GP) referral to the rheumatology review (79% of FTP patients were seen within one working day compared to 64.6 % in the conventional pathway, p=0.023). The FTP has seen a reduction in number of GP appointments.
Conclusions: There was a significant reduction of permanent sight loss with a fast track GCA pathway. The effect may be due to multiple factors including better GP education and reduction in delayed diagnosis. These results need verification at other sites.