Mediterr J Rheumatol 2017;28(3):147-52
Can rheumatologists diagnose and manage Giant Cell Arteritis better than non-rheumatologists? The Maltese Experience
Authors Information

Department of Rheumatology, Mater Dei Hospital, Malta


OBJECTIVES: Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) remains a challenge both in terms of diagnosis and management as patients may present to several different specialists. The objectives were to determine incidence of biopsy-proven GCA in Malta and to compare the management between rheumatologists and non-rheumatologists. METHODS: This was a retrospective observational population study of patients with suspected GCA who underwent a temporal artery biopsy (TAB) between 2012 and 2015. Data collected consisted of demographics, presenting symptoms, TAB histology reports, treatment and outcome. The British Society for Rheumatology (BSR) 2010 guidelines were used as standard of care. RESULTS: 136 patients underwent a TAB for suspected GCA of which 26 were positive.  The incidence of biopsy-proven GCA in Malta was 3.82 per 100,000 patient years in the over 50 population. There were 63 patients who were treated as GCA. Only 43.3% of confirmed cases had rheumatology input.  TABs requested by rheumatologists were twice more likely to be positive compared to requests by non-rheumatologists (30.5% vs. 14.1%).The majority of patients were started on a Prednisolone dose between 40-60mg. Rheumatologists maintained patients on high doses for at least 1 month in 54% of cases as opposed to 20% under non-rheumatologists.  Monitoring was more regular for cases followed up by rheumatologists (40% vs. 21%). CONCLUSIONS: Malta has a low incidence of biopsy proven GCA. Although rheumatologists are more likely to adhere to the recommended guidelines, improvement is needed. Rheumatologists should take the lead to minimise variation and optimise management of GCA.