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Head-and-neck swelling: an under-recognized feature of giant cell arteritis. A report of 37 patients

E. Liozon, B. Ouattara, M. F. Portal, P. Soria, V. Loustaud-Ratti, E. Vidal


2006 Vol.24, N°2 ,Suppl.41
PI 0020, PF 0025
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PMID: 16859591 [PubMed]


To describe the frequency of occurrence and characteristics of head-and-neck swelling (HNS) in temporal (giant cell) arteritis (TA).
We analyzed the charts of patients with HNS retrieved from a single department series of 260 consecutive patients with TA and reviewed the published French-English literature. Patients with a swelling limited to the temporal fossa were excluded.
A history of HNS was elicited in 17 patients in our series (i.e. 6.5%) and in 20 previously published patients. The swelling was an inaugural feature in most cases and was often transient. Ear-nose-and-throat (ENT)symptoms were observed in 80% of the cases, including jaw claudication or pain upon opening mouth in 22, causing trismus in 10. Two patients had permanent visual impairment and 1 had sudden hearing loss. The temporal artery biopsy yielded giant cell arteritis (GCA) in all the patients but 2. The HNS was often painful and mainly involved mainly the orbital region and face, particularly the lower part of the cheeks and maxillae, less often the neck and, rarely, the forehead and tongue. Concurrent localized limb swellings were also observed in 3 patients. The HNS disappeared in all the patients, either spontaneously or under steroid treatment, and recurred only in 6 patients.
HNS is not exceptional in untreated TA and is strongly associated with ENT symptoms and a positive TAB, but not with visual loss or stroke. Such characteristics imply in these cases a prominent, widespread involvement of the external carotid artery system by giant cell arteritis.

Rheumatology Article