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Ann Intern Med. 2006 Feb 21;144(4):249-56.

Preclinical carotid atherosclerosis in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.

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Division of Cardiology, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, Hospital for Special Surgery, and The Rogosin Institute, New York, New York 10021, USA.

Erratum in

  • Ann Intern Med. 2006 Dec 5;145(11):868.



Rheumatoid arthritis is associated with increased morbidity and mortality because of cardiovascular disease, independent of traditional risk factors.


To determine the prevalence of preclinical atherosclerosis in patients with rheumatoid arthritis and to identify clinical and biological markers for atherosclerotic disease in this patient population.


Matched, cross-sectional study.


Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City.


98 consecutive outpatients with rheumatoid arthritis who were followed by rheumatologists and 98 controls matched on age, sex, and ethnicity.


Cardiovascular risk factor ascertainment and carotid ultrasonography in all participants; disease severity, disease treatment, and inflammatory markers in patients with rheumatoid arthritis.


Despite a more favorable risk factor profile, patients with rheumatoid arthritis had a 3-fold increase in carotid atherosclerotic plaque (44% vs. 15%; P < 0.001). The relationship between rheumatoid arthritis and carotid atherosclerotic plaque remained after accounting for age, serum cholesterol levels, smoking history, and hypertensive status; adjusted predicted prevalence was 7.4% (95% CI, 3.4% to 15.2%) for the control group and 38.5% (CI, 25.4% to 53.5%) for patients with rheumatoid arthritis. Age (P < 0.001) and current cigarette use (P < 0.014) were also significantly associated with carotid atherosclerotic plaque. Among patients with rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis was related to age, hypertension status, and use of tumor necrosis factor-alpha inhibitors (a possible marker of disease severity).


The study had a cross-sectional design, and inflammatory markers were determined only once.


Patients with rheumatoid arthritis have a high prevalence of preclinical atherosclerosis independent of traditional risk factors, suggesting that chronic inflammation and, possibly, disease severity are atherogenic in this population.

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