Signs of accelerated preclinical atherosclerosis in patients with ankylosing spondylitis

Mike J L Peters, Izhar C van Eijk, Yvo M Smulders, Erik Serne, Ben A C Dijkmans, Irene E van der Horst-Bruinsma, Michael T Nurmohamed
Journal of Rheumatology 2010, 37 (1): 161-6

OBJECTIVE: Preliminary evidence suggests that ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is associated with an increased cardiovascular (CV) risk. We investigated subclinical atherosclerosis and arterial stiffness in patients with AS compared with controls, and identified CV and AS related risk factors for atherosclerotic disease.

METHODS: A total of 59 patients with AS who were scheduled for etanercept treatment according to the ASsessments in Ankylosing Spondylitis guidelines and 30 healthy controls were recruited. Subclinical atherosclerosis was assessed as the average intima-media thickness (IMT) of the common carotid artery. Arterial stiffness was determined by distensibility, compliance, and Young's elastic modulus of the carotid artery.

RESULTS: AS patients had a greater IMT (0.62 +/- 0.09 mm vs 0.57 +/- 0.09 mm in controls; p = 0.02), a difference that remained after adjustment for traditional CV risk factors. AS was associated with higher carotid pulse pressure (47 +/- 7 mm Hg vs 44 +/- 8 mm Hg in controls; p = 0.04), but this was not due to local vessel wall properties. Among AS patients, age and body mass index (BMI) were determinants of IMT. Age, BMI, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and disease duration were identified as determinants of stiffness indices. No relationship was found between large-vessel properties and higher Bath AS disease indices or C-reactive protein values.

CONCLUSION: AS was associated with subclinical atherosclerosis and arterial stiffness, supporting epidemiological evidence of an increased CV risk in these patients. Whether these differences are due to AS or to a higher prevalence of CV risk factors in patients with AS remains to be determined.

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