Case Reports in Medicine

Case Reports in Medicine / 2020 / Article

Case Report | Open Access

Volume 2020 |Article ID 8130404 |

Safa Idoudi, Marouene Ben Kahla, Fares Mselmi, Badreddine Sriha, A. Guiga, Samia Ayachi, Colandane Belajouza, Mohamed Denguezli, "Scalp Necrosis Revealing Severe Giant-Cell Arteritis", Case Reports in Medicine, vol. 2020, Article ID 8130404, 3 pages, 2020.

Scalp Necrosis Revealing Severe Giant-Cell Arteritis

Academic Editor: Mamede de Carvalho
Received07 Jun 2020
Accepted20 Jul 2020
Published14 Aug 2020


Giant-cell arteritis (GCA), also referred to as temporal arteritis, is the most common primary vasculitis of the elderly involving the extracranial branches of the carotid arteries, in particular, the temporal artery. Patients usually present with temporal headaches, visual impairment, fever, and scalp tenderness. Scalp necrosis associated with GCA is a rare occurrence with approximately 100 cases reported in the literature to date. It is a therapeutic emergency requiring urgent management as it may lead to irreversible loss of vision. To increase awareness of this severe complication, we report a patient with a scalp necrosis revealing a GCA.

1. Introduction

Giant-cell arteritis (GCA), also referred to as temporal arteritis, is a common granulomatous vasculitis of medium and large arteries occurring in elderly patients. Common clinical manifestations include intense headache associated to scalp tenderness, jaw claudication, and fatigue. However, some ischemic complications related to severe thrombosis and advanced inflammation may reveal the disease and lead to poor outcomes with high intensity care.

Herein, we report the evaluation and management of a patient with GCA who had severe scalp necrosis.

2. Case Report

A 72-year-old adult presented with a one-week history of painful necrotic ulcerations of the scalp. The patient had a history of hypertension, dyslipidemia, and amputation of the right leg since 8 years for acute ischemia. The lesion started as a haemorrhagic patch of the parietal region of the scalp; then it has subsequently worsened and spread up within 2 days (Figure 1(a)). He reported an acute headache but without visual trouble or polymyalgia rheumatic. Physical examination revealed extensive necrotic ulcerations with obvious hyperesthesia in both parietal and temporal regions of the scalp (Figure 1(b)). Temporal arteries were indurated without pulse on the right side. A clinical diagnosis of scalp necrosis as complication of giant-cell arteritis was suspected, so the patient was admitted to our department and was started on a regimen of oral glucocorticoids 1 mg/kg/day. Ophthalmologic examination did not mention any abnormalities. His erythrocyte sedimentation rate was normal, and his C-reactive protein level was 90 mg per liter. A temporal artery biopsy showed a granulomatous vasculitis of vessel walls with collections of macrophages, neutrophils, and giant cells (Figure 2).

Given the clinical appearance and biopsy result, the diagnosis of giant-cell arteritis was approved. Imaging techniques like ultrasound were no more needed though it is of great interest to support the diagnosis. Despite the only onset of oral glucocorticoids with ointment dressings applied twice daily, lesions worsened. Two weeks later, he was referred to maxillofacial surgery department where he underwent during many weeks several surgical operations: excision of the necrotic ulcerations (Figure 3(a)) and trepanning followed by negative-pressure wound therapy (Figure 3(b)). Recovery was uneventful, and there was no further progression of necrosis at 12 months of follow-up. The patient was satisfied with the cosmetic outcome, and cutaneous graft was refused (Figure 3(c)). We did not mention a relapse until the patient died of a myocardial infraction one year later.

3. Discussion

Scalp necrosis is a dramatic but an outstanding complication of GCA. Apart from leading to infection, pain, and prolonged healing wound, scalp necrosis associated with GCA is considered as a prognostic factor for higher mortality and major morbidity [1]. Its onset tends to be insidious over weeks to months and abrupt in up to 20% of patients [2]. It is generally accepted that it is related to not only a relatively advanced giant-cell arteritis [3] but also to a delay in diagnosis and initiation of effective treatment resulting in multivessel occlusion of all four main arteries supplying the temporal scalp [4]. It represents therefore an extreme therapeutic emergency as it can spread in depth resulting in a significant loss of substance with a risk of skull bone necrosis, irreversible visual loss, and severe tongue necrosis [5]. Indeed, despite a richly braided supply of the scalp, ischemia occurs in connection with diffusion of the arteritis phenomenon not only to the scalp vessels but also to the rest of the face with irreversible risk of blindness and lingual necrosis [6], thus encouraging to start high-dose corticosteroid therapy with close monitoring. Recently, Tocilizumab has proven its efficiency especially in severe and rebellious cases like our patient’s, but it was difficult to afford it because o its unavailability in our country. Local evolution is most often favorable, but, in the most severe cases, like our patient’s, the healing time may exceed one year, with the use of surgical methods (trepanation of the external table, negative-pressure wound therapy, and skin grafting) [7]. (Figure 4)

Despite the early diagnosis of GCA for our patient and close collaboration among specialists, skin necrosis and inflammation continued for a prolonged period, curing after more than year of follow-up which underlines the severity of such complication. Therefore, awareness of GCA initial signs among all health care should be increased.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors have no conflicts of interest to disclose.


  1. A. N. Somani, B. Al Othman, T. Kini, and A. G. Lee, “Bilateral scalp necrosis in giant cell arteritis,” Journal of Neuro-Ophthalmology, 2019. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  2. D. S. Younger, “Giant cell arteritis,” Neurologic Clinics, vol. 37, no. 2, pp. 335–344, 2019. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  3. L. McDonald, G. Baker, and O. Kerr, “Scalp ulceration: a rare manifestation of giant cell arteritis,” BMJ Case Reports, vol. 12, no. 11, Article ID e230795, 2019. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  4. W. Dummer, D. Zillikens, A. Schulz, E.-B. Brocker, and H. Hamm, “Scalp necrosis in temporal (giant cell) arteritis: implications for the dermatologic surgeon,” Clinical and Experimental Dermatology, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 154–158, 1996. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  5. L. Truffaut and P. Lefebvre, “Tongue necrosis in giant-cell arteritis,” New England Journal of Medicine, vol. 378, no. 26, p. 2517, 2018. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  6. S. Grant, H. Underhill, and P. Atkin, “Giant cell arteritis affecting the tongue: a case report and review of the literature,” Dental Update, vol. 40, no. 8, pp. 669–677, 2013. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar
  7. C. Fongaufier, A. Guffroy, and J.-C. Lutz, “Tongue and scalp necrosis: simultaneous initial complications revealing giant cell arteritis,” The Journal of Rheumatology, vol. 45, no. 6, pp. 873-874, 2018. View at: Publisher Site | Google Scholar

Copyright © 2020 Safa Idoudi et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

More related articles

 PDF Download Citation Citation
 Download other formatsMore
 Order printed copiesOrder

Related articles

Article of the Year Award: Outstanding research contributions of 2020, as selected by our Chief Editors. Read the winning articles.