J Clin Rheumatol. 2022 Sep 20. doi: 10.1097/RHU.0000000000001897. Online ahead of print.
The aim of this meta-analysis was to estimate the mean duration of glucocorticoid (GC) treatment in patients with giant cell arteritis. PubMed, EMBASE, and Cochrane databases were searched from inception until November 30, 2021. The outcome measures were the proportion of patients on GCs at years 1, 2, and 5 after diagnosis and the mean GC dose (in the entire cohort and expressed in prednisone equivalents) at these time points. Twenty-two studies involving a total of 1786 patients were included. The pooled proportions of patients taking GCs at years 1, 2, and 5 were 89.7% (95% confidence interval [CI], 83.2%-93.9%), 75.2% (95% CI, 58.7%-86.6%), and 44.3% (95% CI, 15.2%-77.6%), respectively. The pooled GC dose at years 1 and 2 was 9.1 mg/d (95% CI, 2.8-15.5 mg/d) and 7.8 mg/d (95% CI, 1.4-14.1 mg/d), respectively. The proportion of patients taking GCs at year 1 was lower in multicenter studies (p = 0.003), in randomized controlled trials (p = 0.01), and in studies using a GC-tapering schedule (p = 0.01). There were no significant differences in the proportion of patients taking GCs at years 1 and 2 according to study design (retrospective vs. prospective), initial GC dose, use of pulse GCs, publication year, enrolment period, duration of follow-up, age, and sex. This meta-analysis showed that giant cell arteritis is a chronic disease that requires substantial and prolonged GC treatment in a considerable proportion of patients. A predefined GC-tapering schedule may help to avoid inadequately long GC treatment.