Non-surgical diagnostic tools for giant cell arteritis

Project: Research

Research areas and keywords

UKÄ subject classification

  • Ophthalmology


Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is a form of sight-threatening, granulomatous large-vessel vasculitis. Typical symptoms are headache, fever, and weight loss, and the condition may cause retinal ischemia and loss of vision. GCA is usually treated with high dosage, long-term oral glucocorticoids. Temporal artery biopsy is considered the golden standard in the diagnosis of GCA, in which a 2 cm long piece of the temporal artery is surgically excised (biopsy) and analyzed histologically to identify inflammatory lesions in the vessel wall. This technique has high specificity but low sensitivity. 30-70% of the biopsies are negative due to discontinuous inflammation (also known as skipped lesions), too short a part of the artery being excised, and/or pre-operative steroid treatment. Furthermore, risks are associated with surgical biopsy, including facial nerve palsy. Attempts have been made to develop non-invasive imaging techniques for the diagnosis of GCA, in particular, ultrasonography, but the sensitivity has been disappointing.

The aim of this project is to develop and implement non-invasive imaging techniques for the diagnosis of GCA with high sensitivity and specificity, in order to avoid surgical excision and, at the same time, enable multiple examinations and treatment follow-up.

The project is both experimental and clinical and will be performed in collaboration with researchers from the Faculty of Engineering, Lund University.

Patents undergoing biopsy at our center will first be examined by a combination of novel non-invasive imaging techniques.

1. A new ultrasound-based method based on so-called center frequency shifts (CFS), which has been recently developed at the Division of Biomedical Engineering in Lund.
2. Photoacoustic imaging (PAI), which provides high-resolution 3D images of the structure and function of tissue by irradiating it with laser light and radiofrequency pulses, which generate ultrasound. No studies have yet been performed to image the temporal artery in patients.
3. High-resolution 7-tesla MRI, at the MRI research facility in Lund

We hope to find one or more new non-invasive and cost-effective diagnostic tools for the diagnosis of GCA that can replace surgery.
Effective start/end date2017/01/01 → …

Collaborative partners

  • Lund University (lead)
  • Lunds tekniska högskola, Lunds universitet (Project partner)