Insights Into Large Vessel Vasculitis: The Pivotal Role of Clinical Coding in Research

Clinical coding’s pivotal role in healthcare data analysis can’t be overstated. The ability to distil and categorise complex medical conditions into clear, searchable data makes it an essential tool for medical researchers. Mukhtyar et al. utilised this very tool to study the incidence of large vessel vasculitides in Norfolk, UK, giving us a clearer picture of these relatively under-studied diseases.

Spotlight on Large Vessel Vasculitides: The Norfolk Study

Large vessel vasculitides, including Giant Cell Arteritis (GCA) and Takayasu arteritis, have long been subjects of clinical interest. Yet, comprehensive data on their incidence based on clinically verified diagnoses have been scarce. The Norfolk study conducted by Mukhtyar et al. provides a critical piece of this puzzle.

Demystifying the Incidence Rates with Clinical Coding

The researchers used clinical coding to pinpoint individuals with a verified diagnosis of primary systemic vasculitis in a stable population with a predominantly Northern European ancestry. This approach allowed them to identify 272 adults diagnosed with large vessel vasculitis from a population of 454,316. It was found that the annual incidence of large vessel vasculitis in Norfolk is 59.9 per million in the adult population.

Moreover, the study disclosed that the annual incidence of GCA is 9.9 per 100,000 over the age of 50, according to the American College of Rheumatology (ACR) 1990 criteria, and 10.6 per 100,000 using the updated ACR/EULAR 2022 criteria.

Trends, Peaks, and Pits: Clinical Coding Reveals All

In addition to shedding light on the incidence rates, the Norfolk study offers fascinating insights into the trends associated with these diseases. The incidence of GCA showed a considerable rise from 2017 onwards, corresponding with the initiation of a fast-track pathway. Intriguingly, the incidence dipped in 2020, coinciding with the suspension of services during the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic.

The study also underscores the demographic trends in large vessel vasculitis incidence. GCA is more common in females and peaks in the 8th and 9th decades.

Takayasu Arteritis: A Snapshot of its Incidence

Takayasu arteritis, another form of large vessel vasculitis, showed an annual incidence of 3.3 per million in the adult population using the ACR 1990 criteria and 1.1 per million using the ACR/EULAR 2022 criteria. This comprehensive data points to the importance of updated clinical coding in gaining a more accurate understanding of disease incidence.

The Clinical Coding Edge: Beyond Norfolk

The Norfolk study makes a compelling case for the role of clinical coding in medical research. By leveraging this tool, researchers were able to investigate and verify disease incidence, trends, and demographic predispositions.

Looking ahead, the study sets a strong precedent for similar research in other regions. By utilising clinical coding effectively, healthcare professionals and researchers can significantly enhance their understanding of disease patterns, allowing for more targeted interventions and improved patient care.

In conclusion, the Norfolk study has illuminated the critical role clinical coding plays in medical research and underscored the power of well-structured data in healthcare. As we continue to embrace a data-driven approach, the importance of effective clinical coding in uncovering insights into disease trends will undoubtedly continue to grow.


Mukhtyar, C. B.; Beadsmoore, C.; Coath, F.; Ducker, G.; Sisson, K.; Watts, R. A.. (2023). The Incidence of Large Vessel Vasculitis in Norfolk. Rheumatology (United Kingdom) ; 62(Supplement 2):ii18-ii19.

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