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The Assessment of Subclinical Cardiovascular Dysfunction in Treated Rheumatoid Arthritis
Background and purpose: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) causes frequently cardiovascular complications, probably determined by early atherosclerosis in connection to chronic systemic inflammation. Purpose of our study was to assess subclinical cardiac and vascular dysfunction, and to evaluate the mechanisms of ventriculo-arterial interaction, in patients with correctly treated RA vs. normal subjects.
Methods: We evaluated 46 subjects (55±10 years, 2 men): 29 patients with seropositive treated RA (mean duration of 11±9 years), without documented cardiovascular or pulmonary disease, and 17 control subjects, matched for age, sex, and distribution of conventional major risk factors. All RA patients were under long-term treatment (more than 6 months) with Methotrexat + Sulfasalasine (22 patients) or Methotrexat + Sulfasalasine + Infliximab (7 patients). We determined biomarkers of inflammation (P-selectin, interleukines 1, 6, 10, 18, seric amiloid A, α-TNF, γ-interferon, C-reactive protein, anti-oxidated LDL antibodies), myocardial fibrosis (β-crosslaps) and ventricular overload (BNP). We assessed the parameters of cardiac function by standard and tissue Doppler echocardiography, intima-media thickness and arterial stiffness by “e-tracking” and “wave intensity analysis” (at the level of the right carotid artery), endothelial function by flow mediated dilation (FMD), and carotid-femoral pulse wave velocity by the Complior method.
Results: Biological parameters of inflammation, markers of myocardial fibrosis and of ventricular overload were not different between the 2 study groups. Also, parameters of subclinical cardiac and vascular function were similar between the two groups. RA patients had subclinical RV dysfunction, correlated to the duration of the disease. They also tended to have higher values of systolic pulmonary artery pressure than normals.
Conclusion: Correctly treated patients with RA, with controlled systemic inflammation, have normal LV, endothelial and arterial function. However, in the absence of documented pulmonary disease, they do have subclinical RV dysfunction, correlated with the duration of disease. This suggests an intrinsic RV myocardial involvement but, since pulmonary artery pressure was also higher, a secondary mechanism might be also involved.