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Medicine (Baltimore). 2008 Nov;87(6):335-44. doi: 10.1097/MD.0b013e3181908e96.

Stroke and multi-infarct dementia as presenting symptoms of giant cell arteritis: report of 7 cases and review of the literature.

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  • 1Internal Medicine Department, Vall d'Hebron University General Hospital, Barcelona, Spain.


Cerebrovascular accidents (CVAs) and multi-infarct dementia have rarely been reported as presenting symptoms of giant cell arteritis (GCA), although 3%-4% of patients with GCA may present with CVAs during the course of the disease. We describe 7 patients with biopsy-proven GCA who presented with stroke or multi-infarct dementia. Most of them had other symptoms of GCA when the disease began that were misdiagnosed or not noticed. The internal carotid arteries were involved in 4 patients and the vertebrobasilar arteries in 3, with bilateral vertebral artery occlusion in 1. Small cerebral infarction foci on cranial computed tomography (CT) scan and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) were found in 5 cases, and cerebellar infarction, in 2. MR angiography showed intracranial arteritis in 4 cases. Treatment with glucocorticoids and adjunctive antiplatelet or anticoagulant therapy was given in all cases, with neurologic improvement in 5. Two patients died. Necropsy demonstrated generalized GCA involving the medium and small cerebral vessels in 1 case. Central nervous system involvement is a rare complication in GCA but is important to recognize, as it can be reversible if diagnosed and treated promptly. Suspicion should arise in elderly patients suffering from strokes with a quickly progressing stepwise course and associated headache, fever, or inflammatory syndrome. In these cases, temporal artery biopsy should be performed without delay. Early diagnosis of GCA and immediate initiation of corticosteroid treatment may prevent progressive deterioration and death. Additional antiplatelet or anticoagulant therapy should be evaluated according to the individual risk and benefit to the patient under care.

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