Giant cell arteritis is an inflammation of the lining of the arteries. Patients with the condition are 17 times likelier than the average person to develop thoracic aortic aneurysms, a potentially life-threatening weakened and bulging area in the upper part of the aorta, the body’s major blood vessel. Physicians should be particularly vigilant and consider screening for aortic aneurysms in all patients five years after they are diagnosed with giant cell arteritis, a Mayo Clinic study finds.
The study was published online this week in the journal Annals of Rheumatic Diseases.
Researchers used a comprehensive National Institute on Aging-funded medical records pool known as the Rochester Epidemiology Project, which covers roughly 95 percent of people in Olmsted County, Minn. They studied 204 people diagnosed with giant cell arteritis between 1950 and 2004; 80 percent were women, and the mean age at diagnosis was 76. The incidence of aortic aneurysms rose five years after giant cell arteritis diagnosis, and was associated with a higher risk of death, the analysis found.
The finding is important for physicians and patients because of the risk of aortic disease and death these patients have, says senior author Eric Matteson, M.D., rheumatology chair at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.
“Increased awareness and improved efforts to detect this problem are important in reducing the risk of catastrophic complications from the weakened aorta,” Dr. Matteson says.
Mayo Clinic is part of the Vasculitis Clinical Research Consortium, a National Institutes of Health-funded effort investigating inflammatory blood vessel disorders. The study was supported by NIH grant UL1RR024150.