What are the possible cardiovascular complications of giant cell arteritis (GCA) (temporal arteritis)?

Updated: Sep 03, 2020
  • Author: Mythili Seetharaman, MD; Chief Editor: Herbert S Diamond, MD  more...
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An observational cohort study using a United Kingdom primary care database found that GCA is associated with increased risks for MI, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. The hazard ratios were 2.06 for MI, 1.28 for stroke, and 2.13 for peripheral vascular disease. Hazard ratios were more pronounced in the first month after the diagnosis of GCA. [53]

GCA leads to death by stroke or MI in roughly 2% of cases. As would be expected, the topographic extent and severity of the vasculitis is greater in fatal than in nonfatal cases. More difficult to quantify are the number of patients whose deaths are related directly or indirectly to chronic corticosteroid use and its attendant complications (eg, hip fracture).

A population-based cohort study from South Australia found that mortality rates in patients with biopsy-proven GCA were similar to those in the general population. Cardiovascular disease was the most common cause of death, followed by infection and cancer. An increased risk of death from infection was more common in the first year, which may be related to immunosuppression from higher doses of corticosteroids at that stage of the disease. [54]

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