Guidelines

Three new ACR guidelines recommend treatment for six forms of vasculitis


 

FROM ARTHRITIS & RHEUMATOLOGY

Three new guidelines from the American College of Rheumatology, in partnership with the Vasculitis Foundation, offer evidence-based recommendations for managing and treating six different forms of systemic vasculitis.

Dr. Sharon Chung, director of the Vasculitis Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco

Dr. Sharon Chung

“It’s not unusual for many rheumatologists to have fairly limited experience caring for patients with vasculitis,” coauthor Sharon Chung, MD, director of the Vasculitis Clinic at the University of California, San Francisco, said in an interview. “And with limited experience comes anxiety and concerns about whether or not one is treating patients appropriately. First and foremost, these guidelines are to help rheumatologists who may not have experience treating patients with vasculitides, to provide them with a framework they can use.”

The guidelines – the first to be produced and endorsed by both the ACR and the Vasculitis Foundation – were published July 8 in both Arthritis & Rheumatology and Arthritis Care & Research.

To assess the recent expansion in diagnostic and treatment options for various forms of vasculitis, the ACR assembled a literature review team, an 11-person patient panel, and a voting panel – made up of 9 adult rheumatologists, 5 pediatric rheumatologists, and 2 patients – to evaluate evidence, provide feedback, and formulate and vote on recommendations, respectively. The guidelines cover six types of vasculitis: one focusing on giant cell arteritis (GCA) and Takayasu arteritis (TAK); one on polyarteritis nodosa (PAN), and another on three forms of antineutrophil cytoplasmic antibody (ANCA)-associated vasculitis (AAV): granulomatosis with polyangiitis (GPA), microscopic polyangiitis (MPA), and eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis (EGPA).

As with other ACR guidelines, these three were developed via the Grading of Recommendations Assessment, Development, and Evaluation (GRADE) methodology, which was used to rate the quality of the gathered evidence. For a recommendation to be published, it required 70% consensus or greater from the voting panel.

GCA and TAK guideline

Regarding the management and treatment of GCA and TAK, the guideline offers 42 recommendations and three ungraded position statements. Due to the low quality of evidence – “reflecting the paucity of randomized clinical trials in these diseases,” the authors noted – only one of the GCA recommendations and one of the TAK recommendations are strong; the rest are conditional.

For patients with GCA, the guideline strongly recommends long-term clinical monitoring over no clinical monitoring for anyone in apparent clinical remission. Other notable recommendations include favoring oral glucocorticoids (GCs) with tocilizumab (Actemra) over oral glucocorticoids alone in newly diagnosed GCA, adding a non-GC immunosuppressive agent to oral GCs for GCA patients with active extracranial large vessel involvement, and preferring temporary artery biopsy as their “diagnostic test of choice at this time.”

“The Europeans generally are more comfortable relying on temporal artery ultrasound,” Robert F. Spiera, MD, director of the vasculitis and scleroderma program at the Hospital for Special Surgery, New York, said in an interview. “In this country, possibly in part due to less uniform expertise in performing these ultrasounds, we have not had as much success in terms of accuracy.

Dr. Robert F. Spiera, director of the vasculitis and scleroderma program at the Hospital for Special Surgery, New York

Dr. Robert F. Spiera

These ACR guidelines therefore recommended biopsy to establish the diagnosis in patients with cranial presentations, whereas in the EULAR guidelines, ultrasound was felt to be preferable to biopsy.”

“While we have temporal artery ultrasound available in the United States, we just don’t have the expertise at this point to perform or interpret that test like the European rheumatologists do,” Dr. Chung agreed. “But I think we’re all hopeful that experience with temporal artery ultrasound will improve in the future, so we can use that test instead of an invasive biopsy.”

Dr. Spiera, who was not a coauthor on any of the guidelines, also highlighted the conditional recommendation of noninvasive vascular imaging of the large vessels in patients with newly diagnosed GCA.

“It is well recognized that a substantial portion of patients with GCA have unrecognized evidence of large vessel involvement, and patients with GCA in general are at higher risk of aneurysms later in the disease course,” he said. “These guidelines suggest screening even patients with purely cranial presentations for large vessel involvement with imaging to possibly identify the patients at higher risk for those later complications.

“What they didn’t offer were recommendations on how to follow up on that imaging,” he added, “which is an important and as-yet-unanswered question.”

For patients with TAK, the guideline again strongly recommends long-term clinical monitoring over no clinical monitoring for anyone in apparent clinical remission. Other conditional recommendations include choosing a non-GC immunosuppressive agent such as methotrexate or a tumor necrosis factor (TNF) inhibitor over tocilizumab as initial therapy because “the efficacy of tocilizumab in TAK is not established at this time.”

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