Early referral of patients with suspected polymyalgia rheumatica – A systematic review

A. W. Nielsen, A. K. Hemmig, A. de Thurah, W. A. Schmidt, S. E. Sattui, S. L. Mackie, E. Brouwer, C. Dejaco, K. K. Keller, C. B. Mukhtyar

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Introduction: Prompt diagnosis and treatment of polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR) is crucial to prevent long-term complications and improve patient outcomes. However, there is currently no standardized approach to referral of suspected PMR patients to rheumatologists, leading to inconsistent management practices. The objective of this systematic review was to clarify the existing evidence regarding the following aspects of early management strategies in patients with suspected PMR: diagnostic strategies, GCA screening, glucocorticoid initiation prior to referral, value of shared care and value of fast track clinic. Methods: Two authors performed a systematic literature search, data extraction and risk of bias assessment independently. The literature search was conducted in Embase, MEDLINE (PubMed) and Cochrane. Studies were included if they contained cohorts of suspected PMR patients and evaluated the efficacy of different diagnostic strategies for PMR, screening for giant cell arteritis (GCA), starting glucocorticoids before referral to secondary care, shared care, or fast-track clinics. Results: From 2,437 records excluding duplicates, 14 studies met the inclusion criteria. Among these, 10 studies investigated the diagnostic accuracy of various diagnostic strategies with the majority evaluating different clinical approaches, but none of them showed consistently high performance. However, 4 studies on shared care and fast-track clinics showed promising results, including reduced hospitalization rates, lower starting doses of glucocorticoids, and faster PMR diagnosis. Conclusion: This review emphasizes the sparse evidence of early management and referral strategies for patients with suspected PMR. Additionally, screening and diagnostic strategies for differentiating PMR from other diseases, including concurrent GCA, require clarification. Fast-track clinics may have potential to aid patients with PMR in the future, but studies will be needed to determine the appropriate pre-referral work-up.

Original languageEnglish
Article number152260
JournalSeminars in Arthritis and Rheumatism
Early online date22 Aug 2023
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Diagnostic strategy
  • Early referral
  • Fast-track clinic
  • GCA screening
  • Polymyalgia rheumatica
  • Shared care

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