Discordance Rate among Bilateral Simultaneous and Sequential Temporal Artery Biopsies in Giant Cell Arteritis: Role of Frozen Sectioning Based on the Mayo Clinic Experience

Devon A. Cohen, John J. Chen, Bryan J. Neth, Nouran Sabbagh, David Hodge, Kenneth J. Warrington, Jonathan Fillmore, Joseph J. Maleszewski, Diva R. Salomao, M. Tariq Bhatti

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1 Scopus citations


Importance: Frozen section temporal artery biopsy (TAB) may prevent a contralateral biopsy from being performed. Objective: To evaluate the sensitivity and specificity of TAB frozen vs permanent section pathology results for giant cell arteritis (GCA) and determine the discordance rate of bilateral TABs. Design, Setting, and Participants: In this retrospective cohort study, medical records were reviewed from 795 patients 40 years or older who underwent TAB from January 1, 2010, to December 1, 2018, treated at a single tertiary care center with the ability to perform both frozen and permanent histologic sections. Data were analyzed from January 2019 to December 2020. Main Outcomes and Measures: Sensitivity and specificity of frozen section TAB for detecting GCA, and discordance rates of bilateral permanent section TAB. Results: Of the 795 included participants, 329 (41.4%) were male, and the mean (SD) age was 72 (10) years. From the 795 patients with 1162 TABs, 119 patients (15.0%) and 138 TABs had positive findings on permanent section. Of these 119 patients, 103 (86.6%) also had positive results on the frozen section, with 4 false-positives (0.6%) and 20 false-negatives (16.8%). Frozen section had a specificity of 99.4% (95% CI, 98.5-99.8), sensitivity of 83.2% (95% CI, 75.2-89.4), positive predictive value of 96.1% (95% CI, 90.4-98.9), negative predictive value of 96.6% (95% CI, 94.9-97.8), positive likelihood ratio of 140.6 (95% CI, 72.7-374.8), and a negative likelihood ratio of 0.17 (95% CI, 0.11-0.25). Simultaneous bilateral TABs were performed in 60 patients (7.5%) with a 5% discordance rate on permanent section. In comparison, bilateral frozen section-guided sequential TABs were performed in 307 patients (38.6%) with 5.5% discordance based on permanent section. In multivariate models, there was a greater odds of positive findings with age (odds ratio [OR], 1.04; 95% CI, 1.01-1.07; P =.008), vision loss (OR, 2.72; 95% CI, 1.25-5.75; P =.01), diplopia (OR, 3.33; 95% CI, 1.00-10.29; P =.04), headache (OR, 2.32; 95% CI, 1.25-4.53; P =.01), weight loss (OR, 2.37; 95% CI, 1.26-4.43; P =.007), and anorexia (OR, 5.65; 95% CI, 2.70-11.89; P <.001). Conclusions and Relevance: These results support the hypothesis that negative findings from frozen sections should not be solely relied on to refute the diagnosis of GCA, whereas positive findings from frozen sections can be reliably used to defer a contralateral biopsy pending the permanent section results..

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)406-413
Number of pages8
JournalJAMA Ophthalmology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ophthalmology


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