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Hypertension. 2001 Apr;37(4):1075-82.

Vascular stiffness in women with systemic lupus erythematosus.

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University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, Pittsburgh, PA, USA.


Large-vessel manifestations of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), a multisystem disease characterized by disturbances in the immune system, include higher than expected rates of hypertension and cardiovascular disease. Reductions in the elasticity of central arteries may act as a marker of early changes that predispose to the development of major vascular disease. This study evaluated risk factors associated with aortic stiffness measured by pulse wave velocity (PWV) in women with SLE. We expected SLE-specific factors, especially variables indicative of inflammation and active disease, to be associated with increasing PWV. The study population included 220 women currently enrolled in the Pittsburgh Lupus


All risk factor data were collected on the day of the ultrasound examinations. PWV waveforms were collected from the right carotid and femoral arteries by Doppler probes. The mean age of the women was 45.5+/-10.8 years, the median SLE disease duration approximated 9 years, and the mean PWV was 6.1+/-1.7 m/s. Multiple regression models were stratified by menopausal status. Among postmenopausal women, PWV risk factors were primarily traditional factors and included age, systolic blood pressure, family history of vascular disease, carotid plaque, creatinine, obesity, glucose, white cell count, and cumulative SLE organ damage. Among premenopausal women, PWV risk factors consisted of a mix of SLE-related and traditional variables and included higher C3 levels, presence of ds-DNA antibodies, nonuse of hydroxychloroquine, lower leukocyte count, higher mean arterial pressure, and carotid plaque. SLE-specific variables appeared to be associated with increases in aortic PWV, indicating central artery stiffening. This was seen most clearly among premenopausal women. This finding may partially explain the higher rates of cardiovascular disease and hypertension observed in young women with SLE.

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