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Am Surg. 1990 Jan;56(1):16-21.

Temporal artery biopsy.

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  • 1Department of Surgical Education, Carraway Methodist Medical Center, Birmingham, Alabama 35234.


Though surgeons have little input in the selection of patients for temporal-artery biopsy, a knowledge of temporal-artery anatomy and the pathophysiology of temporal arteritis is important. All temporal-artery biopsies done at Carraway Methodist Medical Center between January 1980 and January 1985 were reviewed. Seventy-three biopsies were performed on 70 patients and eight (11.4%) were found to have temporal arteritis histologically. One patient was judged to have temporal arteritis clinically, despite a negative biopsy of short length. Six of eight patients with positive biopsies were female, with an average age of 71.7 years. The most common signs and symptoms of those patients with positive biopsies were temporal headache (8/8), elevated erythrocyte sedimentation rate (7/8), temporal tenderness (5/8), jaw claudication (3/8), and visual changes (3/8). All biopsies were done under local anesthesia and there were no complications. With increasing awareness of the segmental nature of the disease, the length of biopsy specimens (formalin treated) increased from an average of 0.4 cm in 1980 to 2.4 cm in 1984. During this time, the positive rate increased from 0 per cent (0/9) to 17 per cent (4/24). A generous biopsy of approximately 5 cm in length of fresh vessel is recommended to confirm the suspected diagnosis of temporal arteritis.

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