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Ultrasound in Medicine and Biology


C-Reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate are crucial parameters used to monitor giant cell arteritis (GCA). Given that tocilizumab is approved for the treatment of GCA, these parameters are less sensitive because of the effects of interleukin-6 receptor blockade. Thus, the optimal method for monitoring GCA patients undergoing tocilizumab therapy, especially patients exhibiting a persistent thickened vessel wall in large vessels, remains unclear. Contrast-enhanced ultrasonography (CEUS) can increase the visibility of tissue perfusion by slow blood flow, which cannot be detected by power color doppler. We used CEUS to investigate patients with active and inactive GCA of the large vessels (active large vessel arteritis [aLVV]/inactive large vessel arteritis [iLVV]) who were not administered tocilizumab in this proof-of-concept study. After injection of the ultrasound contrast agent, the contrasted area (CA) of large vessels in a transverse section was calculated twice: first when the lumen was contrasted completely and once again 4–8 s later. We investigated the value of increase in CA that exhibited the best sensitivity and specificity for aLVV. Twenty-four patients were included in this study: 15 with aLVV and 9 with iLVV. The CA increased from 32.2 ± 16.8 to 52.5 ± 21.3 mm2 (p < 0.0001) in aLVV. The mean CA remained unchanged in iLVV. The best cutoff value to differentiate between aLVV and iLVV was a ≥25% increase in CA with a sensitivity and specificity of 91.7% and 100%, respectively. Our study indicates that CEUS can detect aLVV with high sensitivity and specificity. Incorporation of CEUS into routine clinical practice might result in a good method for monitoring disease activity in LVV in GCA patients. The limitation of our study was the small number of patients and the lack of investigator blinding to clinical data.

Authors: Raoul Bergner, Jan Splitthoff, Daniel Wadsack

Medizinische Klinik A, Klinikum der Stadt Ludwigshafen gGmbH, Ludwigshafen, Germany

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