Long-term outcome of giant cell arteritis

Nicolò Pipitone, Luigi Boiardi, Gianluigi Bajocchi, Carlo Salvarani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Giant cell arteritis is usually a self-limiting disease with a variable duration of months to years. However, in a subset of patients the disease may follow a protracted course, requiring long-term treatment with glucocorticoids. To date, glucocorticoids are the only agents whose efficacy has been unquestionably proven. More specifically, they can both improve the clinical symptoms of giant cell arteritis and also prevent its complications, including visual loss. Glucocorticoids therapy is notoriously fraught with numerous side effects, therefore it is sensible to taper glucocorticoids as quickly as possible. Flares are not uncommon and tend often to occur upon tapering of glucocorticoids dosage or on withdrawal of glucocorticoids therapy. However, in most cases flares are mild and appear to respond favorably to an increase in glucocorticoids dosage or reintroduction of glucocorticoids therapy, respectively. Mortality rates of giant cell arteritis patients are comparable to those of the general population, but there is evidence for an increased frequency of potentially life-threatening ischemic events, such as myocardial infarction and cerebro-vascular accidents, especially early on in the disease course. The risk conferred by the disease appears to decrease with time, presumably as a consequence of glucocorticoids treatment, whereas it can remain significantly elevated in patients whose disease activity is not sufficiently controlled by the treatment. By contrast, there is no evidence that giant cell arteritis is associated with an increased prevalence of malignancies or that it may represent a paraneoplastic syndrome.

Original languageEnglish
JournalClinical and Experimental Rheumatology
Issue number2 SUPPL. 41
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2006


  • Aortic aneurysm
  • Blindness
  • Cerebrovascular accidents
  • Glucocorticoids
  • Morbidity
  • Mortality
  • Myocardial infarction
  • Neoplasms
  • Temporal arteritis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology
  • Immunology

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