Increased arterial stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis and Its relation to disease activity: A cross sectional study

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Background: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with elevated plasma level of inflammatory markers. Chronic inflammation is known to predispose to endothelial dysfunction and increased arterial stiffness, which is an important marker of subclinical atherosclerosis and increased cardiovascular risk. Objective: The aim is to test for the relationship between disease activity and arterial stiffness in RA patients. Methods: The study included 90 RA patients, at different grades of disease activity and 45 healthy subjects, as a control group. Patients were subjected to full history taking and clinical examination, laboratory investigations including serum lipid profile and high sensitivity CRP (hs-CRP) measurements and plain x-rays of hands and feet. Modified Larsen method was used as radiographic scoring method. Disease activity score (DAS 28) was used for assessment of disease activity. Transthoracic echocardiography was performed to detect aortic stiffness parameters. Duplex ultrasound imaging of both common carotid arteries was performed to measure carotid stiffness parameters. Results: The mean age of RA patients was 39.86 ± 9.39 years and most of them (83.3%) were females. RA patients had higher carotid stiffness index compared to control group patients (8.57 ± 4.83 vs 4.08 ± 1.13, p <.001). Very poor correlation was found between DAS-28 and aortic (r = 0.1, p =.28) as well as carotid (r = 0.05, p =.7) stiffness indices. No statistically significant correlation was found between hs-CRP and aortic stiffness index (r = 0.64, p =.55). Disease duration was significantly correlated to intima-media thickness (p <.01) as well as with other carotid stiffness parameters. Age also show a statistically significant positive correlation with carotid stiffness parameters. Conclusion: RA is associated with increased arterial stiffness, a well-recognized marker of cardiovascular risk. This is attributed to the inflammatory nature of the disease. It seems that the most important factors determining stiffness are patients’ age and duration of illness.

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Youssef, G., Allam, N. T., Gaber, W., Afifi, A., & Hesham, D. (2018). Increased arterial stiffness in rheumatoid arthritis and Its relation to disease activity: A cross sectional study. Egyptian Heart Journal, 70(1), 35–40.

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