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Temporal Artery Biopsy

Temporal arteritis is a condition where the temporal arteries (which supply blood the brain) are inflamed or damaged. It is also known as cranial arteritis or giant cell arteritis. Although this condition usually occurs in the temporal arteries, it can occur in almost any medium to large artery in the body.

The American College of Rheumatology notes that approximately 229,000 people in the United States are affected by temporal arteritis and people over the age of 50 are more likely than younger people to develop the condition. Women are also more likely than men to have temporal arteritis. Although the exact cause of the condition is unknown, it may be linked to the body’s autoimmune response. Also, excessive doses of antibiotics and certain severe infections have been linked to temporal arteritis. There’s no known prevention, but once diagnosed, temporal arteritis can be treated to minimize complications. Untreated temporal arteritis can lead to other serious conditions, including aneurysms, strokes, and even death.

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If you think that you may have temporal arteritis, you should make an appointment to see Dr. Sean Paul as soon as possible. Temporal arteritis can cause very serious complications, but seeking immediate medical attention and treatment can reduce the risk of developing these complications.

SYMPTOMS

The symptoms of temporal arteritis can include:

  • double vision
  • sudden, permanent loss of vision in one eye
  • a throbbing headache that’s usually in the temples
  • fatigue
  • weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • jaw pain, which sometimes can occur with chewing
  • fever
  • unintentional weight loss
  • shoulder pain, hip pain, and stiffness
  • tenderness in the scalp and temple areas

These symptoms can also occur due to other conditions. If you are worried about symptoms you’re experiencing and would like Dr. Paul to examine you or a loved one, please give us a call to schedule an appointment at (512) 642-5050

DIAGNOSIS

Dr. Paul will perform a physical exam and look at the patient’s head to determine whether there’s any tenderness. He will pay special attention to the arteries and may also order a blood test or recommend a biopsy. A temporal artery biopsy can be done conveniently at any of our five Central Texas locations (South Austin, North Austin, Westlake, Lakeway, or New Braunfels) using local anesthesia.

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TEMPORAL ARTERY BIOPSY

Dr. Paul has successfully completed many temporal artery biopsies and is happy to discuss any questions you may have before a biopsy is performed. During this relatively minor procedure, a small piece of tissue is removed from the temporal artery and studied for signs of inflammation and damage. On the day of the biopsy, you will be taken to a special room where the procedure will be done. Dr. Paul will locate your temporal artery and use a small needle to deliver medicine that will numb your skin near the biopsy site. Then, a small incision will be made in the skin and a very small piece of tissue will be removed from the temporal artery. The skin will be closed with stitches. You will be able to go home as well as eat and drink normally following the temporal artery biopsy. You will also have a small bandage on your temple and may experience a little pain as the numbing medicine wears off. Your temporal artery will take several days to completely heal from the procedure, so it is important to avoid strenuous activity during this time.

The sample of tissue taken during the biopsy will be studied for signs of temporal artery damage. Results from the biopsy will take a few days to come in and Dr. Paul will call you directly or plan to discuss in person.

POTENTIAL COMPLICATIONS

If temporal arteritis isn’t treated, serious, potentially life-threatening complications can occur. They include:

  • inflammation and damage to other blood vessels in the body
  • development of aneurysms, including aortic aneurysms
  • vision loss
  • eye muscle weakness
  • blindness
  • stroke

An aortic aneurysm can lead to massive internal bleeding. Death can also occur if temporal arteritis isn’t treated. Talk with Dr. Paul about ways to minimize any complications from the condition.