What is a temporal artery biopsy?


Quick Answer

A temporal artery biopsy is a procedure that doctors use to diagnose giant cell arteritis, according to the American College of Rheumatology. During the biopsy, the doctor removes a small piece of the temporal artery, which is examined with a microscope for signs of inflammation.

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Full Answer

Giant cell arteritis is a vasculitis that causes inflammation of the blood vessels of the scalp and the head, explains the American College of Rheumatology. It mostly affects the elderly, and the average age of onset is 72 years, notes the Johns Hopkins Vasculitis Center. Women are affected two to three times more often than men, and the disease occurs more frequently in people of Scandinavian descent.

The most common symptoms of giant cell arteritis are severe head pain and tenderness, usually over the temples or the front of the head, according to Mayo Clinic. Other symptoms include sudden and permanent vision loss, blurry vision, scalp tenderness, jaw pain, fever, and unexplained weight loss.

Immediate treatment of giant cell arteritis is important because the disease can cause permanent vision loss, explains Mayo Clinic. Treatment involves the use of high-dose corticosteroids for the first month and a gradual decrease in the dose over a period of one to two years.

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