Background: Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is a common large vessel vasculitis of the elderly, often associated with sight loss. Glucocorticoids (GC remain the mainstay of treatment, although biologic treatments have been approved. Biomarkers predicting disease severity, relapse rates and damage are lacking in GCA.EULAR recommends ultrasound (US) as the first investigation for suspected GCA. The cardinal US finding, a non-compressible halo, is currently categorised as either negative or positive. However, the extent and severity of this finding may vary.In this study, we hypothesise whether the extent and severity of the halo sign [calculated as a single composite Halo score (HS)] of temporal and axillary arteries may be of diagnostic, prognostic and monitoring importance; whether baseline HS is linked to disease outcomes, relapses and damage; whether HS can stratify GCA patients for individual treatment needs; whether HS can function as an objective monitoring tool during follow up.
Methods: This is a prospective, observational study. Suspected GCA Participants will be selected from the GCA FTC at the participating centres in the UK. Informed consent will be obtained, and patients managed as part of standard care. Patients with GCA will have HS (temporal and axillary arteries) measured at baseline and months 1,3,6 and 12 long with routine clinical assessments, blood sampling and patient-reported outcomes (EQ5D). Non-GCA patients will be discharged back to the referral team and will have a telephone interview in 6 months.We aim to recruit 272 suspected GCA referrals which should yield 68 patients (25% of referrals) with confirmed GCA. The recruitment will be completed in 1 year with an estimated total study period of 24 months.
Discussion: The identification of prognostic factors in GCA is both timely and needed. A prognostic marker, such as the HS, could help to stratify GCA patients for an appropriate treatment regimen. Tocilizumab, an IL-6R blocking agent, switches off the acute phase response (C-Reactive Protein), making it difficult to measure the disease activity. Therefore, an independent HS, and changes in that score during treatment and follow-up, maybe a more objective measure of response compare to patient-reported symptoms and clinical assessment alone.