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Medical Science Monitor Basic Research


Giant Cell Arteritis as an Uncommon Cause of Chronic Cough: A Case Report

Unknown etiology, Challenging differential diagnosis

Moiz Salahuddin, Bruce F. Sabath

USA Department of Pulmonary Medicine, The University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

Am J Case Rep 2021; 22:e932945

DOI: 10.12659/AJCR.932945

Available online: 2021-09-08

Published: 2021-10-14


BACKGROUND: Chronic cough is a common medical concern. Giant cell arteritis (GCA) is an uncommon cause of chronic cough and is not usually suspected since symptoms can be non-specific. We present a case of chronic cough due to GCA in which symptoms were subtle but imaging was remarkable and clearly disclosed the diagnosis.
CASE REPORT: A 71-year-old woman presented to the pulmonary clinic with a concern of worsening cough for 4 months. She had been treated with proton pump inhibitor, intranasal steroids, and antibiotics, without improvement. Other symptoms were an occasional headache for the prior 5 months, but this had resolved. She had a history of early-stage breast and thyroid cancers, both of which were treated surgically several years earlier and were in remission. Results of a physical examination including flexible video laryngoscopy of the upper airway were completely normal. Laboratory investigations showed normal blood chemistries and blood cell counts. Her C-reactive protein level was 1 mg/L (upper limit of normal <10) but her erythrocyte sedimentation level was 121 mm/hr (upper limit of normal <30). A positron emission tomography (PET) scan was performed as surveillance for her prior cancers. This showed diffuse tracer uptake in the aorta as well as bilateral common carotid, subclavian, and common iliac arteries, revealing GCA as the underlying diagnosis.
CONCLUSIONS: Giant cell arteritis is a rare cause of chronic cough. Other symptoms can be subtle or non-specific as in our case, and a high index of suspicion is needed to obtain a temporal artery biopsy. In these cases, imaging adjuncts can provide a non-invasive diagnosis.

Keywords: Cough, Giant Cell Arteritis, Headache Disorders, Primary