Progressive degenerative changes in ageing temporal arteries are described. These changes are usually severe in elderly patients, hence their presence in diagnostic biopsies provides no evidence of temporal arteritis past or present.
In two patients in the series of random necropsies examined there were changes in the temporal arteries identical with those seen in patients known to have suffered from temporal arteritis in the past; in both these cases there was, in addition a giant cell aortitis.
The distinction between healed arteritis and degenerative changes due to age in a single biopsy specimen may be difficult. Furthermore, it is possible that steroid treatment may arrest the progress of the disease so that gross intimal thickening and vascularization of the artery wall do not occur.
Giant cell arteritis is not a rare disease. Two examples were discovered in 39 random necropsies on patients over 60 years of age.
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