Indian Journal of Dermatology
  Publication of IADVL, WB
  Official organ of AADV
Indexed with Science Citation Index (E) , Web of Science and PubMed
Users online: 4001  
Home About  Editorial Board  Current Issue Archives Online Early Coming Soon Guidelines Subscriptions  e-Alerts    Login  
    Small font sizeDefault font sizeIncrease font size Print this page Email this page

Table of Contents 
Year : 2013  |  Volume : 58  |  Issue : 4  |  Page : 328
Bitemporal scalp, lip and tongue necrosis in giant cell arteritis: A rare presentation

1 Department of Dermatology, Bombay Hospital and Medical Research Center, Mumbai, India
2 Department of Medicine, Bombay Hospital and Medical Research Center, Mumbai, India
3 Department of Neurology, Bombay Hospital and Medical Research Center, Mumbai, India

Date of Web Publication25-Jun-2013

Correspondence Address:
Rajesh Kumar
Department of Dermatology, Room no. 208, 2nd Floor, "New Wing", Bombay Hospital and Medical Research Center, 12, New Marine Line, Mumbai 400 020
Login to access the Email id

Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/0019-5154.113980

Rights and Permissions


A 74-year-old man was presented with fever, bilateral throbbing temporoparietal headache, jaw claudication, and bilateral loss of vision. On examination, he had bilateral scalp necrosis with impending necrosis of lip and tongue. Temporal artery biopsy was done, and it was compatible with active temporal arteritis. This is one of the rare presentations of giant cell arteritis where there is simultaneous necrosis of scalp, lip, and tongue, and to the best of our knowledge, it is the first case reported from India.

Keywords: Giant cell arteritis, lip necrosis, scalp necrosis, tongue necrosis

How to cite this article:
Kumar R, Gupta H, Jadhav A, Khadilkar S V. Bitemporal scalp, lip and tongue necrosis in giant cell arteritis: A rare presentation. Indian J Dermatol 2013;58:328

How to cite this URL:
Kumar R, Gupta H, Jadhav A, Khadilkar S V. Bitemporal scalp, lip and tongue necrosis in giant cell arteritis: A rare presentation. Indian J Dermatol [serial online] 2013 [cited 2023 Jun 4];58:328. Available from:

What was known? 1. GCA is a rare systemic granulomatous vasculitis affecting people older than 50 years of age. 2. The scalp, lip, and tongue necrosis has been reported as rare and delayed phenomena and signify worse prognosis.

   Introduction Top

Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is a systemic granulomatous vasculitis affecting primarily large vessels branching out from the aorta. The most commonly involved vessels in GCA are the arteries of the scalp involving the temporal area. Hence, it is called "temporal arteritis." It is also called Horton's disease after the physician who gave its first description in 1932. Clinically, it manifests as characteristic throbbing headache localized to temporal and parietal region of scalp. In addition, patient may have fever, malaise, jaw claudication, and polymyalgia rheumatica. Finally, as a rare occurrence, patient may have partial or complete blindness. [1] It occurs almost exclusively in patients older than 50 years of age with an incidence of 6.9-32.8 per one lakh population. [2]

Scalp necrosis as a cutaneous sign has been described as a rare presentation in GCA. [3],[4] Others have noticed tongue and lip necrosis as well. [5],[6] There is a direct correlation between a scalp necrosis and visual loss. [7] Scalp necrosis, tongue necrosis, lip necrosis, and visual loss are signs of very active GCA involving multiple vessels and indicate a delay in diagnosis. [8] Polymyalgia rheumatica may be associated with GCA in up to 50% of the cases. [8] Here, we are presenting a rare case in which there is simultaneous occurrence of bilateral scalp, lip, and tongue necrosis with bilateral visual loss without polymyalgia rheumatica. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first case report describing the simultaneous involvement of scalp, lip, and tongue necrosis in case of GCA in an Indian patient.

   Case Report Top

A 74-year-old man was presented with high-grade fever, sudden onset bilateral temporoparietal headache, jaw claudication, and diminished vision in both eyes for last 7 days. On examination, he had bilateral scalp, lip, and tongue necrosis [Figure 1] and [Figure 2]. On clinical examination, the temporal arteries were palpable tender and nonpulsatile. In addition, he had exposure keratopathy and diminished corneal reflexes.
Figure 1: Temporal scalp necrosis

Click here to view
Figure 2: Lip and tongue necrosis

Click here to view

Routine hematological and biochemical investigations revealed raised erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR: 132 mm at the end of 1 h), anemia (hemoglobin: 8.6 g/dl), leukocytosis (total leukocyte count: 19,700/mm 3 ), thrombocytosis (platelet count: 9, 94,000/mm 3 ), and raised C-reactive protein level (10 mg/L). ANA was negative and the bone marrow examination was normal. The temporal artery biopsy was compatible with giant cell arteritis and showed infiltration of media tunica by lymphocytes and giant cells [Figure 3]. There was a focal destruction of internal elastic lamina and narrowing of the lumen due to fibrin deposition. Ultrasonography and color Doppler was not performed as the patient was bedridden, and we felt it was unnecessary at that given point of time.
Figure 3: Histopathology (H and E, ×4)

Click here to view

We have treated this patient with systemic corticosteroids (oral prednisolone: 1 mg/kg body weight per day). After an initial improvement in headache and scalp necrosis (within 24-36 h of initiation of therapy), there was no improvement for another 2-3 days, neither it was deteriorating. The patient's relatives decided to take him home against the medical advice. Therefore, further follow-up could not be possible.

   Discussion Top

GCA or temporal arteritis is a systemic inflammatory vasculitis affecting medium- to large size vessels. It is more common in female and elderly (above 50 years). [1] Polymyalgia rheumatica may be associated in about 50% of the cases, which is now believed to be a different expression of the same disease. [2],[8] Clinically, the most common symptom is bilateral temporoparietal headache. In addition, the patient may have fever, jaw claudication, loss of vision, and rarely scalp, lip, and tongue necrosis. [2],[3]

Scalp necrosis is a delayed manifestation of GCA and associated with bilateral visual loss and higher mortality. [9] It will be further complicated or not going to respond to therapy if there is simultaneous involvement of lip and tongue. Therefore, scalp necrosis, lip necrosis, tongue necrosis, or loss of vision is sign of active and ongoing GCA involving multiple vessels. [8] Irreversible visual loss is due to arteritic ischemic optic neuropathy. [10] The formation of scalp necrosis may be due to occlusion of four arteries supplying the temporal area of the scalp and depends on the degree of anastomoses between these vessels. [1] With disease progression, more number of vessels are involved which may result in necrosis of the skin of that particular area. The overall mortality rate in GCA with scalp necrosis varies in different studies and ranges from 23.7% to as high as 38%. [1],[9] Tongue infarction may be an early sign of scalp necrosis, but in our case, it was most delayed presentation. [5] Therefore, it is recommended that GCA may be considered a differential diagnosis in case of unusual and sudden headache in elderly. [11]

The diagnosis of GCA can be made by taking biopsy of the affected temporal artery, which shows inflammatory infiltrate in the adventitia and media of the arterial wall with fragmentation of the elastic lamina with or without giant cells. Taking temporal artery biopsy is safe in GCA, rarely a patient or their relative may refuse invasive procedure. Alternatively, color Doppler or duplex ultrasonography of temporal arteries may help in diagnosing and assessing the treatment outcome in GCA. It typically shows a dark hypoechoic circumferential wall thickening around the artery lumen, so-called halo sign, which disappear after 2-3 weeks of therapy. [12],[13] Once confirmed, treat promptly to avoid these complications especially irreversible visual impairment. [14] The treatment of choice in case of GCA is systemic corticosteroids (prednisolone, 1 mg/kg body weight). [14],[15] If patient is not responding or to taper the systemic steroids, one can add methotrexate as an adjuvant or maintenance therapy. [15] Recently, cytokines blockade with infliximab, etanercept, and tocilizumab has been tried with conflicting results. [15] Only tocilizumab, a humanized IL-6 receptor antibody, has produced a significant improvement and allowed rapid tapering of the systemic corticosteroids. [16]

To conclude, scalp necrosis, tongue necrosis, lip necrosis, or visual loss is delayed manifestation of GCA involving multiple vessels and could be avoided by early intervention.

   References Top

1.Tsianakas A, Ehrchen JM, Presser D, Fischer T, Kruse-Loesler B, Luger TA, et al. Scalp necrosis in giant cell arteritis: Case report and review of the relevance of this cutaneous sign of large-vessel vasculitis. J Am Acad Dermatol 2009;61:701-6.  Back to cited text no. 1
2.Hunder GG. Epidemiology of giant-cell arteritis. Cleve Clin J Med 2002;69:SII79-82.  Back to cited text no. 2
3.Ghaffar SA, Todd PM. Scalp necrosis secondary to giant-cell arteritis. Clin Exp Dermatol 2010;35:e40-1.  Back to cited text no. 3
4.Currey J. Scalp necrosis in giant cell arteritis and review of the literature. Br J Rheumatol 1997;36:814-6.  Back to cited text no. 4
5.Brodmann M, Dorr A, Hafner F, Gary T, Pilger E. Tongue necrosis as first symptom of giant cell arteritis (GCA). Clin Rheumatol 2009;28:S47-9.  Back to cited text no. 5
6.Scully C, Eveson JW, Barrett AW, Cunningham SJ. Necrosis of the lip in giant cell arteritis: Report of a case. J Oral Maxillofac Surg 1993;51:581-3.  Back to cited text no. 6
7.Baldursson O, Steinsson K, Björnsson J, Lie JT. Giant cell arteritis in Iceland. An epidemiologic and histopathologic analysis. Arthritis Rheum 1994;37:1007-12.  Back to cited text no. 7
8.Salvarani C, Cantini F, Boiardi L, Hunder GG. Polymyalgia rheumatica and giant-cell arteritis. N Engl J Med 2002;347:261-71.  Back to cited text no. 8
9.Soderstrom CW, Seehafer JR. Bilateral scalp necrosis in temporal arteritis. A rare complication of Horton's disease. Am J Med 1976;61:541-6.  Back to cited text no. 9
10.Matson M, Fujimoto L. Bilateral arteritic anterior ischemic optic neuropathy. Optometry 2011;82:622-31.  Back to cited text no. 10
11.Bamford CC, Mays M, Tepper SJ. Unusual headaches in the elderly. Curr Pain Headache Rep 2011;15:295-301.  Back to cited text no. 11
12.Schmidt WA, Kraft HE, Völker L, Vorpahl K, Gromnica-Ihle EJ. Colour Doppler sonography to diagnose temporal arteritis. Lancet 1995;345:866.  Back to cited text no. 12
13.Ball EL, Walsh SR, Tang TY, Gohil R, Clarke JM. Role of ultrasonography in the diagnosis of temporal arteritis. Br J Surg 2010;97:1765-71.  Back to cited text no. 13
14.Villa-Forte A. Giant cell arteritis: Suspect it, treat it promptly. Cleve Clin J Med 2011;78:265-70.  Back to cited text no. 14
15.Borchers AT, Gershwin ME. Giant cell arteritis: A review of classification, pathophysiology, geoepidemiology and treatment. Autoimmun Rev 2012;11:A544-54.  Back to cited text no. 15
16.Sciascia S, Rossi D, Roccatello D. Interleukin 6 blockade as steroid-sparing treatment for 2 patients with giant cell arteritis. J Rheumatol 2011;38:2080-1.  Back to cited text no. 16

What is new? To the best of our knowledge, it is the first case in the world where there is progressive and simultaneous involvement of bilateral temporal scalp, lower lip and tongue necrosis in case of GCA.


  [Figure 1], [Figure 2], [Figure 3]

This article has been cited by
1 A Review of the Dermatological Complications of Giant Cell Arteritis
Diana Prieto-Peña, Santos Castañeda, Belén Atienza-Mateo, Ricardo Blanco, Miguel Ángel González-Gay
Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2021; Volume 14: 303
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
2 Tongue necrosis caused by systemic vascular diseases: A systematic review of the literature
Naoya Kitamura, Shinya Sento, Yasumasa Yoshizawa, Eri Sasabe, Tetsuya Yamamoto
Oral Science International. 2020; 17(2): 51
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
3 Sore or swollen lips part 2: systemic causes
Dimitrios Malamos, Crispian Scully
Dental Update. 2016; 43(10): 971
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
4 Bilateral scalp necrosis as a rare but devastating complication of giant cell arteritis
Q. Akram,S. Knight,R. Saravanan
Clinical Rheumatology. 2014;
[Pubmed] | [DOI]
5 Neuro-Ophthalmology Annual Review
Angelina Espino Barros Palau,Michael L. Morgan,Sushma Yalamanchili,Andrew G. Lee
Asia-Pacific Journal of Ophthalmology. 2014; 3(2): 104
[Pubmed] | [DOI]


Print this article  Email this article
    Similar in PUBMED
   Search Pubmed for
   Search in Google Scholar for
 Related articles
    Article in PDF (1,949 KB)
    Citation Manager
    Access Statistics
    Reader Comments
    Email Alert *
    Add to My List *
* Registration required (free)  

   Case Report
    Article Figures

 Article Access Statistics
    PDF Downloaded53    
    Comments [Add]    
    Cited by others 5    

Recommend this journal