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Biomed Pharmacother. 2006 Dec;60(10):673-7. Epub 2006 Oct 10.

Cardiovascular disease in rheumatoid arthritis.

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Rheumatology Division, Hospital Xeral-Calde, c/Dr. Ochoa s/n, 27004 Lugo, Spain.


Epidemiological studies have disclosed an increased mortality due to cardiovascular (CV) complications in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Patients with this disease have an increased risk of left ventricular diastolic dysfunction and congestive heart failure that is unrelated to the presence of traditional atherosclerosis risk factors or ischemic heart disease. Endothelial dysfunction, an early step in the atherogenesis process, is observed in both early and long-standing actively treated patients with RA. High-resolution B-mode ultrasound studies of the common carotid artery have shown the presence of subclinical atherosclerosis, manifested by increased carotid intima-media thickness and carotid plaques, in patients with RA. Association between HLA-DRB1*04 shared epitope alleles, in particular with HLA-DRB1*0404, and endothelial dysfunction and CV mortality has also been observed in these patients. Chronic inflammation plays a pivotal role in the mechanisms associated with atherogenesis in RA. Tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha is a potent proinflammatory cytokine implicated in the initiation and progression of inflammation as well as in the mechanisms associated with accelerated atherosclerosis in this disease. Anti-TNF-alpha therapy has proved to be clinically effective in patients with severe RA. Recent studies have also emphasized the positive effect of anti-TNF-alpha blockade in improving endothelial dysfunction in RA patients. However, this effect seems to be transient and in line with the persistence of chronic inflammation.

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