Increased carotid intima thickness and decreased media thickness in premenopausal women with systemic lupus erythematosus: an investigation by non-invasive high-frequency ultrasound

D Leonard, T Akhter, G Nordmark, L Rönnblom, T Naessen
Scandinavian Journal of Rheumatology 2011, 40 (4): 279-82

OBJECTIVE: To determine whether high-frequency ultrasound (US) yielding separate assessments of intima and media thickness gives additional information about the vascular morphology compared with the total common carotid artery intima-media thickness (CCA-IMT).

METHODS: Using a 22 MHz US instrument, we determined the near-wall CCA-IMT, the intima and media layers, and the intima/media (I/M) ratio in 47 premenopausal women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), 20 healthy women, and 17 postmenopausal women (mean ages 37, 40, and 69 years, respectively).

RESULTS: In SLE, the carotid intima was thicker (0.19 ± 0.04 vs. 0.12 ± 0.02 mm), the media thinner (0.45 ± 0.12 vs. 0.68 ± 0.24 mm), the I/M ratio higher (0.45 ± 0.17 vs. 0.20 ± 0.07) (all p < 0.0001), and the CCA-IMT lower (0.64 ± 0.13 vs. 0.80 ± 0.25 mm, p < 0.01) compared to age-matched controls. The SLE patients had a thicker carotid intima compared to the postmenopausal women (0.19 ± 0.04 vs. 0.14 ± 0.03 mm, p < 0.0001) and a similar I/M ratio.

CONCLUSION: Separate assessment of carotid artery wall layers demonstrated a thicker intima, thinner media, and a higher I/M ratio in women with SLE compared to healthy controls and indicated an artery wall status in SLE comparable to 30-years-older healthy women. Separate estimates of carotid intima and media layers may be preferable to CCA-IMT in SLE patients.

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