Objective. To measure the extent of atherosclerosis in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) with a disease duration of considerable length, and in age and sex matched individuals. Methods. Thirty-nine patients with RA (30 women, 9 men) with disease onset occurring between 1974 and 1978, and less than 65 years of age at the time of investigation, were enrolled together with 39 sex and age matched controls. Quantitative measurement of intima-media thickness (IMT) and semiquantitative assessment of the presence of plaque were undertaken by B-mode ultrasound of the common carotid artery (CCA-IMT) and the common femoral artery on the right-hand side. Echo Doppler cardiography was performed with an Accuson Aspen. The results were related to disease activity variables and accumulated disease activity, to lipid levels [i.e., cholesterol, high density lipoproteins, low density lipoproteins, triglycerides (TG)], to hemostatic factors [tissue plasminogen activator antigen (tPAag), plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), von Willebrand factor (vWF)], and to soluble adhesion molecules (sICAM-1 and sE-selectin). Results. Patients with RA had higher maximal and mean IMT values compared with controls. The difference concerning mean CCA-IMT reached statistical significance in patients with RA and correlated significantly with lipids (cholesterol, LDL, LDL/HDL ratio, TG) and tPAag. The prevalence of plaques, as well as of aortic cusp sclerosis, was higher in RA but only the difference in aortic cusp sclerosis was statistically significant. Patients with plaques had significantly higher levels of lipids (cholesterol, LDL, LDL/HDL ratio) than patients without plaques, while patients with cusp sclerosis had significantly higher cholesterol and TG levels. sICAM-1 was significantly higher both in patients with plaques and in those with aortic cusp sclerosis compared to patients without. Conclusion. Our results suggest an accelerated atherosclerosis in patients with RA that is related mainly to lipid levels.
2001. Vol. 28, 2597-2602 p.
rheumatoid arthritis; atherosclerosis; B-mode ultrasound; lipids; echocardiography; soluble intracellular adhesion molecule 1