Temporal artery biopsy

Last updated: Tuesday, 30, March, 2004

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Item Process

Segment of temporal artery removed by open surgical biopsy.


A shorter segment (2 cm) of artery is sufficient if the artery is clearly normal by inspection and palpation, otherwise a longer segment is required.

Fresh tissue: frozen section, microscopy.

Fixed tissue: usually processed urgently and multiple serial sections are examined. 

Laboratory staff should be consulted prior to submission of the biopsy.  

A clinical history, including current and past steroid therapy, is essential.


Diagnosis of giant cell (temporal) arteritis. 

Therapy should not be delayed pending the biopsy result.


Report by pathologist of features diagnostic of temporal arteritis. 

It should be noted that changes may be segmental and that a negative biopsy does not exclude the diagnosis. 

In 15-20% of cases the diagnosis is confirmed following biopsy of the contralateral temporal artery.


Stehbens WE and Lie JT. Vascular Pathology. Chapman and Hall 1995.