Relapses and long-term remission in large vessel giant cell arteritis in northern Italy: Characteristics and predictors in a long-term follow-up study

Francesco Muratore, Luigi Boiardi, Giovanna Restuccia, Alberto Cavazza, Mariagrazia Catanoso, Pierluigi Macchioni, Lucia Spaggiari, Luca Cimino, Raffaella Aldigeri, Nicolò Pipitone, Antonio Fontana, Massimiliano Casali, Stefania Croci, Carlo Salvarani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: To evaluate characteristics and predictors of relapses and long-term remission in an Italian cohort of patients with large-vessel (LV) giant cell arteritis (GCA).

METHODS: We evaluated 87 consecutive patients with LV-GCA followed up at the Rheumatology Unit of Reggio Emilia Hospital (Italy) for at least 2 years. Patients with relapses and long-term remission were compared to those without. A group of 34 patients with biopsy proven GCA without LV vasculitis (LVV) at diagnosis was considered for comparison.

PATIENTS: 37 patients (42.5%) experienced one or more relapses. Nineteen (37.2%) of the 51 relapses were experienced during the first year after diagnosis. The majority of relapses occurred with doses of prednisone (PDN) ≤ 10 mg/day (74.5%). Polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) (41.2%) and worsening at imaging of LVV (39.2%) were the most frequently observed relapsing manifestations. The total cumulative prednisone dose was significantly higher (p < 0.0001) and the total duration of PDN treatment longer (p < 0.0001) in relapsing patients compared to those without relapses. Relapsing patients had at diagnosis more frequently fever ≥ 38°C (p = 0.03) and visual manifestations (p = 0.03), and less frequently long-term remission (p = 0.002). In the multivariate model fever ≥ 38°C (HR 2.30, 95%CI:1.11-4.78) and total cumulative PDN dose (HR 1.18, 95%CI: 1.08-1.30) were significantly associated with an increased risk of relapses, while aortic arch involvement at imaging at diagnosis (HR 0.26, 95%CI: 0.11-0.59) and long-term remission (HR 0.27, 95%CI: 0.11-0.65) with a reduced risk. 35/84 patients (41.6%) experienced long-term remission. PMR and disease relapses were less frequently observed (p = 0.04 and p = 0.002, respectively), and the total cumulative prednisone dose was lower (p < 0.001) in patients with long-term remission compared to those without. In the multivariate model the presence of relapses (HR 0.21, 95%CI: 0.07-0.62) and the total cumulative PDN dose (HR 0.85, 95%CI: 0.77-0.95) were significantly negatively associated with long-term remission.

CONCLUSION: In our cohort of patients with LV GCA we identified predictors of a relapsing course and long-term remission, which were observed in around half of the patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)549-558
Number of pages10
JournalSeminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2020

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