JOURNAL ARTICLE
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Takayasu's arteritis identified by computerized tomography: revealing the submerged portion of the iceberg?

BACKGROUND: Takayasu's arteritis is a rare, probably underdiagnosed disorder in Israel.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the contribution of computerized tomography to the diagnosis of Takayasu's arteritis.

METHODS: A retrospective analysis of the diagnostic process was recently conducted in three consecutive patients diagnosed over the last 3 years.

RESULTS: Three females of Arab origin with Takayasu's arteritis were recently identified by CT. In two of the three patients the imaging procedure was performed for different working hypotheses, and the radiological findings (wall thickening, perivascular edema, and segmental intraluminal obliteration of the aorta and its major branches) were unexpected. In these two patients, repeated physical examination following the imaging procedure disclosed initially missed findings that could have led to an earlier consideration of Takayasu's arteritis (bruits above the epigastrium, subclavian and carotid arteries, and absent brachial pulses). Retrospective analysis of the patients' symptoms following CT revealed the true nature of the patients misinterpreted complaints (e.g., typical abdominal angina replaced a faulty obtained history compatible with renal colic or dyspepsia). In the third patient CT was performed for the evaluation of an epigastric bruit associated with constitutional complaints. The diagnosis of aortitis, based upon the presence of diffuse aortic wall thickening and edema of the surrounding fat, without intraluminal narrowing, could have been missed by angiography, the traditional "gold standard" diagnostic procedure. All three patients complained of ill-defined epigastric abdominal pain and had epigastric tenderness during examination.

CONCLUSIONS: CT has the potential for detecting Takayasu's disease and may be superior to angiography, particularly at the early non-obliterative stage. Since the diagnosis of Takayasu's disease is rarely considered, the expanding use of CT and MRI technologies may reveal missed cases that are evaluated for other plausible diagnoses. The true incidence of Takayasu's arteritis in Israel may be much higher than reported, particularly in the Arab population. Our findings suggest that epigastric tenderness, originating from active inflammatory reaction in the abdominal aortic wall, should be considered as a diagnostic criterion of Takayasu's aortitis.

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