In “Know Your Unknown Unknowns,” (October 2007 TR, p. 6), we asked for your thoughts on whether or not to administer steroids post-surgery for a woman with giant cell arteritis (GCA) of the aorta. (See patient description below). We’ve published a selection of those responses here, and we want to thank everyone who wrote in. Keep those letters coming!—The Editors
Explore this issueJanuary 2008
Also by this Author
Mixed Views on Steroid Use
No doubt that steroids were needed in this case. The key question: Were the margins of the graft involved or free of giant cell inflammation? If the inflammatory process was extensive at the graft-tissue interface, I would be concerned about healing at the interface. If the interface was clear and the patient would be followed closely for amaurosis or other ominous symptoms, then I would be more likely to be patient on starting steroids. Do no harm.
Now the question is how long does it take normally for an aortic graft-tissue interface to heal in a 70-year-old patient? We now know that atherosclerosis is an inflammatory process and that many of these grafts will go into an area of inflammatory atheromatous aorta—at times flagrantly inflamed. Yet from what I gather they usually heal. This patient may have had both giant cell aortitis and inflammatory atherosclerosis.
My guess is that steroids were held, the graft healed, and steroids were started later with no end point to follow. A PET scan can show active inflammation in giant cell aortitis and smaller arteries and may provide some additional information about extent and activity.