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Indian J Surg. 2008 Apr;70(2):73-6. doi: 10.1007/s12262-008-0019-7. Epub 2008 May 21.

Temporal artery biopsy: impact on the clinical management of patients.

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Department of Vascular Surgery, 2nd Floor, S Block, University Hospital Birmingham NHS Trust, Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham, B29 6JD UK.



Temporal artery biopsy (TAB) is requested in an attempt to confirm the diagnosis of temporal arteritis (TA). Patients symptoms and signs are highly variable and TA is often focal and potentially missed in a small biopsy. The study aimed to determine if TAB helps in the management of patients with suspected TA.


The case records of sixty-six consecutive patients who had undergone temporal artery biopsy were recalled and examined for presenting symptoms, management, therapy, results and outcome.


There were 23 men and 43 women with a mean age of 70.2 and 71.1 years respectively. Presenting symptoms varied with unilateral headache in 53, scalp tenderness in 16, muscle weakness in 10, visual disturbance in 16, jaw claudication in 5 and peri-orbital pain in 1 patient. The temporal artery was tender in 21 patients and thickened in 4 patients. Thirty-eight patients were commenced on steroids prior to biopsy and 6 more before the histology became available. Only 8% of biopsies were positive for TA. Of the patients started on steroids with a negative biopsy, the steroids were continued in 26 and stopped in 9. In the patients not put on steroids [22], biopsy was positive in 2; they were commenced on steroids. Therefore, the histological diagnosis resulted in a change in patient management in only 18% of patients.


The results of TAB do not appear to affect the clinical management of most patients with suspected temporal arteritis. We must therefore question the routine use of this invasive investigation.

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