Carotid artery intima-media thickness and brachial artery flow-mediated vasodilatation in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

Mirjana V Veselinovic, Vladimir I Zivkovic, Slavco Toncev, Nebojsa Tasic, Vesna Bogdanovic, Dragan M Djuric, Vladimir Lj Jakovljevic
VASA. Zeitschrift Für Gefässkrankheiten 2012, 41 (5): 343-51

BACKGROUND: Cardiovascular (CV) morbidity and mortality are increased in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Our study aim was to determine the relationship between carotid artery intima-media wall thickness (IMT) and flow-mediated endothelium-dependent vasodilatation (FMD) in a patients with RA, in context with clinical and laboratory measurements.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: Fifty-two patients with RA and 30 matched healthy controls without clinically evident CV disease were studied. Brachial and carotid ultrasonography was performed to determine FMD and IMT, respectively. We also assayed immunological, inflammatory and metabolic laboratory markers.

RESULTS: IMT was significantly higher in RA patients (1.00 ± 0.16 mm) patients than in controls (0.89 ± 0.13 mm) (P = 0.001). FMD was significantly lower in RA (9.16 ± 7.03) as compared to controls (12.60 ± 5.49) (p = 0.005). RA patients had significant positive correlations between erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) (r=0.395 p = 0.021) and IMT and negative correlation between visual analog scale (VAS) (r= -0.311, p= 0.025) and IMT. RA patients who used low doses of corticosteroids have, statistically, significantly better FMD, than those who do not use corticosteroids. Linear regression analysis revealed that IMT was related to tender joint count (p = 0.008), VAS (p < 0.001), ESR (p = 0.048) and total cholesterol/high density lipoprotein cholesterol ratio (p = 0.039).

CONCLUSIONS: In patients with RA, FMD was impaired and IMT was increased, indicating early endothelial dysfunction and accelerated atherosclerosis. Early treatment of disease may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis in RA.

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