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The fast-track ultrasound clinic for early diagnosis of giant cell arteritis significantly reduces permanent visual impairment: towards a more effective strategy to improve clinical outcome in giant cell arteritis?

Rheumatology 2016 January
OBJECTIVE: Permanent visual impairment has been reported to occur in up to 19% of GCA patients. The aim of this study was to examine whether implementation of a fast-track approach could reduce the rate of permanent visual impairment and inpatient days of care in GCA patients.

METHODS: A fast-track outpatient GCA clinic (FTC) was implemented in the Department of Rheumatology, Hospital of Southern Norway Trust Kristiansand, Norway in 2012. The patients included in this study were subsequently recruited between March 2010 and October 2014. Routine clinical and laboratory data and number of inpatient days of care were collected.

RESULTS: During the observation period, 75 patients were diagnosed with GCA. Among the 75 GCA patients, 32 were evaluated conventionally and 43 in the FTC. In the conventionally approached group, six patients suffered from permanent visual impairment, while in the FTC group only one patient suffered from permanent visual impairment. The relative risk of permanent visual impairment in the GCA patients examined in the FTC was 88% lower compared with the conventionally evaluated group (relative risk 0.12, 95% CI: 0.01, 0.97, P = 0.01). The mean difference in inpatient days of care between patients evaluated conventionally and patients evaluated in the FTC was 3 days (3.6 vs 0.6 days, P < 0.0005).

CONCLUSION: The implementation of the FTC in GCA care appears to significantly reduce the risk of permanent visual impairment and is more cost effective by reducing the need for inpatient care.

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