Polymyalgia rheumatica and temporal arteritis: a retrospective study of 111 patients

Clin Rheumatol. 1995 Nov;14(6):650-5. doi: 10.1007/BF02207931.


There is no unanimity as to whether polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) and temporal arteritis (TA) are two distinct diseases or different features of one disease. The objective of this study was to assess the value of histological findings of temporal artery biopsy and the efficacy and complications of drug therapy as well as the frequency of malignancies. It was carried out as a retrospective follow-up study. One hundred eleven patients (89 PMR, 14 TA and 8 PMR+TA) were studied. In 56 patients with PMR a temporal artery biopsy was performed; in none of these biopsies was active arteritis found. Of the 19 patients with TA or PMR+TA, where a temporal artery biopsy was performed, arteritis was found in 15 patients. Reactivation occurred in 27 patients: 4 patients using NSAIDs and 23 patients using corticosteroids. Side effect of the medication included vertebral compression in 10 patients, most of whom were using corticosteroids. Malignancies were diagnosed in 12 of the 111 patients. Most malignancies were diagnosed long before or after the diagnosis of PMR. In case of a PMR diagnosed by the clinician a biopsy of the temporal artery has no value, while the yield of this diagnostic procedure is high in TA. Reactivation was seen quite often and warrants a prolonged period of medical treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones / adverse effects
  • Aged
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal / adverse effects
  • Biopsy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Giant Cell Arteritis / complications
  • Giant Cell Arteritis / drug therapy
  • Giant Cell Arteritis / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasms / complications
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica / complications
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica / drug therapy
  • Polymyalgia Rheumatica / pathology*
  • Retrospective Studies


  • Adrenal Cortex Hormones
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents, Non-Steroidal