Antiplatelet therapy to prevent ischemic events in giant cell arteritis: protocol for a systematic review and meta-analysis

Syst Rev. 2024 Jul 8;13(1):173. doi: 10.1186/s13643-024-02599-w.


Background: Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is the most common systemic vasculitis in adults. Presenting features include new-onset headaches, constitutional symptoms, jaw claudication, polymyalgia rheumatica, and visual symptoms. Arterial inflammation with subsequent stenosis and occlusion may cause tissue ischemia, leading to blindness, strokes, and myocardial infarction. Oral antiplatelet therapy has been hypothesized to reduce GCA-related ischemic events. However, previous studies have demonstrated conflicting results regarding the efficacy of antiplatelet agents in GCA. The objective of this systematic review is to assess the safety and efficacy of antiplatelet therapy for the prevention of these events in adults with giant cell arteritis.

Methods: In this systematic review, we will include randomized controlled trials (RTCs), quasi-randomized trials, non-randomized intervention studies, cohort studies, and case-control studies on patients with new-onset or relapsing GCA. The intervention of interest will be pre-existing use or initiation of an oral antiplatelet medication (aspirin, clopidogrel, prasugrel, or ticagrelor) at GCA onset or relapse. The comparator of interest will be the absence of antiplatelet therapy. Endpoints will be evaluated after 6 and 12 months of follow-up. The primary outcome will be GCA-related ischemic events, including permanent blindness, stroke, myocardial infarction, and ischemic event-related deaths. Adverse events such as major bleeding and death caused by a bleeding event will be assessed.

Discussion: GCA-related ischemic events are catastrophic, sudden, often irreversible, and lead to significant morbidity. Antiplatelet agents are affordable, accessible, and could be effective for the prevention of these events. Nevertheless, the potential benefits of platelet aggregation inhibition must be weighed against their associated risk of bleeding. Assessing the efficacy and safety of antiplatelet therapy in GCA is therefore clinically important.

Systematic review registration: Our systematic review protocol was registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO, registration number CRD42023441574.

Keywords: Antiplatelet therapy; Giant cell arteritis; Ischemic events; Myocardial infarction; Stroke; Visual impairment.

MeSH terms

  • Giant Cell Arteritis* / drug therapy
  • Humans
  • Ischemia / prevention & control
  • Meta-Analysis as Topic
  • Myocardial Infarction / prevention & control
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors* / therapeutic use
  • Systematic Reviews as Topic*


  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors