Bradford VTS Online Resources:

Clinical Knowledge

Musculoskeletal Medicine, Orthopaedics & Rheumatology





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Important features in the history

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Important features in the Examination

Red Flags

Giant Cell Arteritis is an Emergency

Giant cell arteritis is a medical emergency, because prompt identification can prevent sight loss. Patients are sick and require long-term, high-dose oral steroids, a treatment that is not without risks of its own.  It is therefore important to have a high index of suspicion.

  • If you think GCA is highly probablye, you should take bloods that same day, start steroids and pick up the phone to speak to a rheumatologist.
  • If there is visual disturbance, you should arrange IMMEDIATE ophthalmology assessment.
  • If you think GCA is one of a number of possibilities, we should still pick up the phone and speak to rheumatology to agree a plan for further investigation and whether to start steroids.
  • GCA patients will end up on high doses of steroids
      • They need regular shared care follow-up to monitor comorbidities, e.g. hypertension, diabetes, and for side-effects.
      • All will need a steroid treatment and a steroid emergency card.
      • Nearly all will need bone and gastro-protection.

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