DOI: 10.1007/s00259-018-4021-4Pages: 1119-1128

Three days of high-dose glucocorticoid treatment attenuates large-vessel 18F-FDG uptake in large-vessel giant cell arteritis but with a limited impact on diagnostic accuracy

1. Aarhus University Hospital, Department of Rheumatology

2. Aarhus University, Department of Clinical Medicine

3. Aarhus University Hospital, Department of Nuclear Medicine and PET Centre

Correspondence to:
Berit Dalsgaard Nielsen
Tel: +45 42648685




To evaluate the in-treatment diagnostic accuracy of FDG PET/CT in large-vessel giant cell arteritis (LV-GCA) by serial scans before and after a short course of high-dose glucocorticoid treatment.


Twenty-four glucocorticoid-naïve patients with new-onset PET/CT verified LV-GCA (pre-treatment baseline PET) were prospectively included. Excluded were patients with a previous history of GCA or polymyalgia rheumatica, LV-GCA-mimicking conditions and patients on immunosuppressive therapy. All patients were treated with 60 mg of oral prednisolone daily and assigned for in-treatment FDG PET/CT after either 3 (PET3) or 10 days (PET10). Two experienced nuclear medicine physicians, blinded to patients’ clinical data, reviewed the FDG PET/CT images. A visual semi-quantitative approach was used. Segmental and homogenous FDG uptake in the wall of the aorta and/or supra-aortic branches with higher uptake intensity than liver was considered consistent with vasculitis. Inter-reader reliability was evaluated.


Although glucocorticoid treatment attenuated FDG uptake in large vessels, LV-GCA was accurately diagnosed in 10/10 patients after 3 days of treatment, but only in 5/14 patients after 10 days of treatment (p < 0.001). Interrater reliability was substantial (agreement 87%, Cohen’s weighted kappa 0.70). No correlation between CRP and FDG uptake was found.


Within 3 days of high-dose glucocorticoid treatment, FDG PET/CT can diagnose LV-GCA with high sensitivity. This window of opportunity ensures that prompt glucocorticoid treatment can be initiated to avoid debilitating GCA complications with a limited effect on diagnostic accuracy. After 10 days of treatment, FDG PET/CT sensitivity decreases significantly.

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  • Accepted: Apr 11, 2018
  • Online: Apr 18, 2018

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