Posts Tagged ‘European League Against Rheumatism’

Carotid Ultrasound more sensitive for Detecting Subclinical Atherosclerosis in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) than CT with calculation of Coronary Artery Calcification Scores

Reporter: Aviva Lev-Ari, PhD, RN

Ultrasound Predicts CVD Risk in Arthritis

Published: Oct 8, 2013 | Updated: Oct 8, 2013

By Nancy Walsh, Staff Writer, MedPage Today
Reviewed by Zalman S. Agus, MD; Emeritus Professor, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and Dorothy Caputo, MA, BSN, RN, Nurse Planner


Carotid ultrasound was more sensitive for detecting subclinical atherosclerosis in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) than CT with calculation of coronary artery calcification scores, Spanish researchers found.

Among a group of 60 patients classified as being at moderate cardiovascular risk on a conventional scoring system, the presence of severe abnormalities on ultrasound reclassified 51 as being at high or very high risk, according to Miguel A. Gonzalez-Gay, MD, of Universitario Marques de Valdecilla in Santander, and colleagues.

And of those 51 reclassified patients, only 12 would have been reclassified as being at high or very high cardiovascular risk using a coronary artery calcification score,the researchers reported in the NovemberAnnals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Patients with RA are at markedly increased risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD), both from conventional risk factors and the ongoing systemic inflammation associated with RA.

Comprehensive management of these patients therefore should include risk assessment and appropriate interventions, but “adequate stratification of the CV risk in patients with RA is still far from being completely established,” Gonzalez-Gay and colleagues noted.

The insensitivity of conventional risk assessments such as the Systematic Coronary Risk Evaluation (SCORE), even when modified by the European League Against Rheumatism(mSCORE) to account for the increased background risk in RA, has been confirmed byreports of ischemic heart disease among patients not considered to be at elevated risk on these measures.

These researchers previously suggested that carotid ultrasonography be added to the overall risk assessment of RA patients, particularly those with moderate SCORE risk, but whether other noninvasive approaches such as coronary artery calcification also could be useful has been uncertain.

Therefore, they enrolled 95 rheumatoid arthritis patients with no history of cardiovascular events and no diabetes or chronic renal disease.

Most were women, mean age was 59, and mean disease duration was 11 years.

Rheumatoid factor and/or anticyclic citrullinated peptide was present in 72%, and extra-articular manifestations in 16%.

All patients had carotid ultrasonography to assess for plaque and multi-detector CT scanning to detect coronary artery calcification.

Carotid intima-media thickness of 0.90 or the presence of plaque was considered predictive of CVD on ultrasound.

A coronary artery calcification score of zero was considered normal, and a score over 100 indicated a high likelihood of coronary artery disease.

Patients also were given conventional SCORE ratings, based on factors such as age, sex, smoking, blood pressure, and atherogenic index, as well as mSCORE ratings, to estimate the 10-year risk for a fatal cardiovascular event.

The mean SCORE was 2.30, and the mean mSCORE was 2.78.

Cardiovascular risk according to mSCORE was low in 21, moderate in 60, and high or very high in 14.

Most patients with low mSCOREs also had scores of zero for coronary artery calcification, and none of the low mSCORE patients had calcification scores above 100.

But 57% of patients with calcification scores of zero had carotid plaques identified on ultrasound, as did 76.3% of patients with calcification scores between 1 and 100.

While calcification scores above 100 weren’t much more sensitive than mSCOREs for detection of high risk (23.6% versus 19.4%), almost all (70 of 72) patients with high or very high risk were identified with carotid ultrasound, for a sensitivity of 97.2% (95% CI 90.3-99.7).

And when the ultrasound model of intima-media thickness above 0.9 mm and/or carotid plaque also included mSCOREs above 5%, all 72 were correctly identified, for a sensitivity of 100% (95% CI 95-100).

This lack of sensitivity for calcification scores likely reflects the finding that arterial calcification is a later vascular development, and its absence doesn’t rule out the presence of the more vulnerable noncalcified plaques, the researchers explained.

“These results support the use of carotid ultrasonography as the imaging technique of choice for detection of high/very high CV risk in RA patients with moderate mSCORE,” they said.

In an editorial accompanying the study, Patrick H. Dessein, MD, of the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, and Anne G. Semb, MD, of Diakonhjemmet Hospital in Oslo, Norway, noted that the use of ultrasound more than tripled the number of patients considered to be at high risk.

If only mSCORE was used for risk stratification, they pointed out, many patients “in routine clinical settings” would be unlikely to receive preventive treatments, “with the serious consequences this has.”

Dessein and Semb also noted that there were certain limitations to this study, including its cross-sectional design and inclusion of patients with long disease duration.

“It remains to be clarified whether carotid ultrasound is as helpful among patients with early disease versus those with longstanding disease in enhancing CVD risk stratification,” the editorialists wrote.

The authors reported no conflicting interests.

From the American Heart Association:





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