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December 16, 1998

Temporal Artery Biopsy to Diagnose Temporal Arteritis

Author Affiliations

Margaret A.WinkerMDIndividualAuthorPhil B.FontanarosaMD, Senior EditorsIndividualAuthor

JAMA. 1998;280(23):1992. doi:10-1001/pubs.JAMA-ISSN-0098-7484-280-23-jbk1216

To the Editor.—In their Contempo article, Drs Gordon and Levin1 published data for the target artery length for temporal artery biopsy specimens. I assume that they are recommending that a surgeon obtain a temporal artery segment that is at least 20 mm in length in situ. Smooth muscle retraction followed by formalin fixation may shorten such a surgical specimen. Do the authors have data on the degree of shrinkage in a processed temporal artery biopsy? (Most pathologists assume that formalin fixation that will cause a 10% reduction in the length of a nonbony structure, but documentation is hard to come by.) Alternatively, if a 2-cm-long portion of formalin-fixed artery is recommended, what is the recommended artery length that should be obtained? Without clarification, I fear that some surgeons will be called to task because of a lack of understanding of tissue-processing artifacts.

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