Clinical and Radiographic Features of Giant Cell Arteritis With Intracranial Involvement

Catalina Sanchez-Alvarez, Alexander S. Hawkins, Matthew J. Koster, Vance T. Lehman, Cynthia S. Crowson, Kenneth J. Warrington

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is a large-vessel vasculitis that primarily affects the aorta and its branches. Extracranial branches of the carotid artery are frequently affected; however, intracranial involvement in GCA is rare. Methods: A retrospective medical record review was performed to identify all patients with intracranial GCA (IC-GCA) from January 1996 through May 2018. Results: Nine patients with IC-GCA were included (78% male; mean age, 72.1 years [SD: 7.9]). All patients met ACR criteria for GCA. The median time from onset of GCA to intracranial involvement was 0.6 months (interquartile range: 0.1-5.1). All patients had neurologic symptoms, 89% had an ischemic cerebrovascular event. Transient or permanent vision loss was frequent (56% of patients). IC-GCA was diagnosed by cranial imaging in all nine patients. Intracranial vasculitis most commonly affected the internal carotid artery (100%), followed by the vertebral artery (67%), posterior cerebral artery (67%), middle cerebral artery (44%), anterior cerebral artery (33%), and posterior inferior cerebral artery (11%). Intracranial vessel stenosis was present in 89%, occlusion in 33%, wall thickening in 33%, and dilation in 11%. All patients received glucocorticoids. Additional therapeutic agents included cyclophosphamide (67%) and tocilizumab (22%). Despite treatment, five patients had rapid deterioration and mortality. Comparing IC-GCA patient survival to the expected rates from the US population, the standardized mortality ratio (95% CI) for IC-GCA was 58.1 (18.9-135.6). Conclusion: Although rare, IC-GCA is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. It occurs predominantly in men and presents with ischemic cerebrovascular events. Current treatment strategies appear to be of limited efficacy for IC-GCA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)471-477
Number of pages7
JournalACR Open Rheumatology
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Rheumatology


Dive into the research topics of 'Clinical and Radiographic Features of Giant Cell Arteritis With Intracranial Involvement'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this