Importance: Current clinical guidelines recommend selecting diagnostic tests for giant cell arteritis (GCA) based on pretest probability that the disease is present, but how pretest probability should be estimated remains unclear.
Objective: To evaluate the diagnostic accuracy of symptoms, physical signs, and laboratory tests for suspected GCA.
Data sources: PubMed, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews were searched from November 1940 through April 5, 2020.
Study selection: Trials and observational studies describing patients with suspected GCA, using an appropriate reference standard for GCA (temporal artery biopsy, imaging test, or clinical diagnosis), and with available data for at least 1 symptom, physical sign, or laboratory test.
Data extraction and synthesis: Screening, full text review, quality assessment, and data extraction by 2 investigators. Diagnostic test meta-analysis used a bivariate model.
Main outcome(s) and measures: Diagnostic accuracy parameters, including positive and negative likelihood ratios (LRs).
Results: In 68 unique studies (14 037 unique patients with suspected GCA; of 7798 patients with sex reported, 5193 were women [66.6%]), findings associated with a diagnosis of GCA included limb claudication (positive LR, 6.01; 95% CI, 1.38-26.16), jaw claudication (positive LR, 4.90; 95% CI, 3.74-6.41), temporal artery thickening (positive LR, 4.70; 95% CI, 2.65-8.33), temporal artery loss of pulse (positive LR, 3.25; 95% CI, 2.49-4.23), platelet count of greater than 400 × 103/μL (positive LR, 3.75; 95% CI, 2.12-6.64), temporal tenderness (positive LR, 3.14; 95% CI, 1.14-8.65), and erythrocyte sedimentation rate greater than 100 mm/h (positive LR, 3.11; 95% CI, 1.43-6.78). Findings that were associated with absence of GCA included the absence of erythrocyte sedimentation rate of greater than 40 mm/h (negative LR, 0.18; 95% CI, 0.08-0.44), absence of C-reactive protein level of 2.5 mg/dL or more (negative LR, 0.38; 95% CI, 0.25-0.59), and absence of age over 70 years (negative LR, 0.48; 95% CI, 0.27-0.86).
Conclusions and relevance: This study identifies the clinical and laboratory features that are most informative for a diagnosis of GCA, although no single feature was strong enough to confirm or refute the diagnosis if taken alone. Combinations of these symptoms might help direct further investigation, such as vascular imaging, temporal artery biopsy, or seeking evaluation for alternative diagnoses.