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Temporal artery biopsy for diagnosing giant cell arteritis: the longer, the better?
  1. A Mahr1,
  2. M Saba1,
  3. M Kambouchner3,
  4. M Polivka4,
  5. M Baudrimont5,
  6. I Brochériou6,
  7. J Coste2,
  8. L Guillevin1
  1. 1Department of Internal Medicine, Hôpital Cochin, Université René-Descartes, Paris, France
  2. 2Department of Biostatistics EA 2494, Hôpital Cochin, Paris
  3. 3Department of Pathology, Hôpital Avicenne, Bobigny, France
  4. 4Department of Pathology, Hôpital Lariboisière, Paris
  5. 5Department of Pathology, Hôpital National des XV–XX, Paris
  6. 6Department of Pathology, Hôpital de la Pitié-Salpêtrière, Paris
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr Alfred Mahr
    Department of Internal Medicine, Hôpital Cochin, 27 rue du Faubourg Saint-Jacques, 75679 Paris Cedex 14, France; alfred.mahr{at}


Objective: To investigate the relation between temporal artery biopsy (TAB) length and diagnostic sensitivity for giant cell arteritis.

Methods: Histological TAB reports generated from four hospital pathology departments were reviewed for demographics, histological findings, and formalin fixed TAB lengths. A biopsy was considered positive for giant cell arteritis if there was a mononuclear cell infiltrate predominating at the media–intima junction or in the media.

Results: Among 1821 TAB reports reviewed, 287 (15.8%) were excluded because of missing data, sampling errors, or age <50 years. Mean TAB length of the 1520 datasets finally analysed (67.2% women; mean (SD) age, 73.1 (10.0) years) was 1.33 (0.73) cm. Histological evidence of giant cell arteritis was found in 223 specimens (14.7%), among which 164 (73.5%) contained giant cells. Statistical analyses, including piecewise logistic regression, identified 0.5 cm as the TAB length change point for diagnostic sensitivity. Compared with TAB length of <0.5 cm, the respective odds ratios for positive TAB without and with multinucleated giant cells in samples ⩾0.5 cm long were 5.7 (95% confidence interval, 1.4 to 23.6) and 4.0 (0.97 to 16.5).

Conclusions: A fixed TAB length of at least 0.5 cm could be sufficient to make a histological diagnosis of giant cell arteritis.

  • TAB, temporal artery biopsy
  • giant cell arteritis
  • temporal artery biopsy
  • sensitivity

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