Are the ESR and CRP levels increased in 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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Statistical prediction models can guide decisions to perform temporal artery biopsy and initiate glucocorticoids in giant cell arteritis (GCA), but do not supplant clinical judgment. [80, 81]

The laboratory hallmarks of GCA include elevation in the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) and C-reactive protein (CRP) level and thrombocytosis. The ESR usually exceeds 50 mm/h and may exceed 100 mm/h, but may be normal in 7-20% of patients with GCA. [82, 83] Therefore, a normal ESR does not rule out GCA, and the level of elevation of ESR does not correlate reliably with the severity of the disease. Because normal values of ESR are known to increase with age and are higher in women, the ESR should be appropriately adjusted. [84]

CRP is of hepatic origin.  The level usually rises before ESR in most disease states, and is often elevated in GCA. It has higher sensitivity and specificity than ESR (98.6% and 75.7%, respectively) and is relatively unaffected by age, gender, and other hematologic parameters. [85]

Nonconcordance between ESR and CRP can occur (ie, either an elevated ESR with normal CRP or a normal ESR with an elevated CRP). The use of both tests provides a slightly greater sensitivity for the diagnosis of GCA (99%) than the use of either test alone. [86]

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