Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask you about your signs and symptoms, conduct a physical exam, and take your medical history. He or she may also have you undergo some of the following tests and procedures to help rule out other conditions that resemble Takayasu's arteritis and to confirm the diagnosis. Some of these tests may also be used to check on your progress during treatment.

  • Blood tests. These tests can be used to look for signs of inflammation, such as a high level of C-reactive protein or a high erythrocyte sedimentation rate — commonly referred to as a sed rate. Your doctor may also check for anemia.
  • X-rays of your blood vessels (angiography). During an angiogram, a flexible catheter is inserted into a large artery or vein. A special dye (contrast medium) is then injected into the catheter, and X-rays are taken as the dye fills your arteries or veins. The resulting images allow your doctor to see if blood is flowing normally or if it's being slowed or interrupted due to narrowing (stenosis) of a blood vessel. A person with Takayasu's arteritis generally has several areas of stenosis.
  • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA). This less invasive form of angiography produces detailed images of your blood vessels without the use of catheters or X-rays, although an intravenous contrast medium generally is used. MRA works by using radio waves in a strong magnetic field to produce data that a computer turns into detailed images of tissue slices.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) angiography. This is another noninvasive form of angiography combining computerized analysis of X-ray images with the use of intravenous contrast dye to allow your doctor to check the structure of your aorta and its nearby branches and to monitor blood flow.
  • Ultrasonography. Doppler ultrasound, a more sophisticated version of the common ultrasound, has the ability to produce very high-resolution images of the walls of certain arteries, such as those in the neck (carotid arteries) and those in the shoulder (subclavian arteries). It may be able to detect subtle changes in these arteries before other imaging techniques can.
  • Positron emission tomography (PET). This imaging is able to measure the intensity of inflammation in blood vessels. Before the scan, you are given a radioactive drug (tracer).

Unlike other types of vasculitis, Takayasu's arteritis is not usually diagnosed by the removal and analysis of tissue (biopsy).