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Open Access Research article

Cardiovascular case fatality in rheumatoid arthritis is decreasing; first prospective analysis of a current low disease activity rheumatoid arthritis cohort and review of the literature

Inger L Meek12*, Harald E Vonkeman1 and Mart AFJ van de Laar1

Author Affiliations

1 Arthritis Center Twente, University Twente and Medisch Spectrum Twente, 7500KA Enschede, Netherlands

2 Department of Rheumatic diseases, UMC St Radboud, Huispost 470, postbus 9101, 6500 HB Nijmegen, The Netherlands

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BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2014, 15:142  doi:10.1186/1471-2474-15-142

Published: 29 April 2014

Abstract

Background

Previous studies found increased case fatality after myocardial infarction and more frequent sudden death in RA patients compared to non-RA subjects. The RA associated CV risk might be explained by the combined effects of chronic systemic inflammation and increased lifestyle associated cardiovascular risk factors, and modified by the use of medication such as non steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, corticosteroids and disease modifying anti-rheumatic drugs. Trends in case fatality rate in RA after the introduction of potent anti-inflammatory biologic therapies and treat-to-target treatment strategies aiming at remission are not known. This study was performed to examine the cardiovascular fatality rate in current low disease activity RA, and to evaluate trends in RA associated CV case fatality over time.

Methods

Prospective study to determine the incidence of fatal and nonfatal CV events in 480 RA patients included in the ACT-CVD cohort between February 2009 and December 2011. Patients with prior CV disease were excluded. Cox regression analysis was performed to determine CV event risk and contributing risk factors over time. The results of the cohort analysis were put into the context of a review of the literature to evaluate trends in RA associated CV fatality rate over time.

Results

The study included 480 RA patients, 72.3% female with median disease duration of 4.2 years, 72.1% being in clinical remission (Disease Activity Score in 28 joints). During a mean follow up of 2.9 years 29 patients (6%) experienced a first CV event, 2 fatal and 27 non-fatal, corresponding to a 6.9% case fatality rate. Comparison with previous studies in cohorts with successive enrolment periods shows a trend towards a decrease in CV case fatality in RA from 52.9% in 1998 to 6.9% in our study.

Conclusion

CV case fatality in current low disease activity RA is importantly lower than in previous studies, and a trend towards decreasing CV fatality in RA is suggested.

Keywords:
Cardiovascular risk; Mortality; Rheumatoid arthritis