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J Intern Med. 2012 Jul;272(1):45-54. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2796.2011.02475.x. Epub 2011 Nov 25.

Risk of ischaemic heart disease and cardiomyopathy in patients with haemochromatosis and in their first-degree relatives: a nationwide, population-based study.

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1
Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Karolinska University Hospital Clinical, Stockholm, Sweden. maria.elmberg@ki.se

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Iron-loaded macrophages increase atherosclerosis formation. Genetic haemochromatosis (GH) is an autosomal recessive disease characterized by iron overload, for example in the myocardium, but the reticuloendothelial system is depleted of iron. In contrast to the elevated risk of cardiomyopathy in GH, the risk of ischaemic heart disease (IHD) may therefore not be increased. Little is known of these risks among heterozygotes also being first-degree relatives (FDRs), thus sharing other factors for phenotypic expression of GH.

OBJECTIVE:

To assess the risks of IHD and cardiomyopathy among haemochromatosis patients and their FDRs.

DESIGN:

Population-based cohort study.

SETTING AND SUBJECTS:

A total of 3531 haemochromatosis patients and 11 794 FDRs were identified using nationwide, population-based health and census registers. Matched (1:10) population controls were randomly selected. Individuals with a record of IHD and cardiomyopathy during 1997-2005 were identified through linkage with the National Patient Register. Relative risks were estimated using Cox proportional hazard regression.

RESULTS:

Of the 3531 patients, 259 were diagnosed with IHD compared with 3077 of the 37 369 controls [hazard ratio (HR) = 1.17; 95% CI, 1.03-1.33]. Based on 30 patients versus 115 controls, the HR for cardiomyopathy was 3.21 (95% CI, 2.15-4.81). Of 11 794 FDRs of haemochromatosis patients, 582 were registered with IHD compared with 6197 among FDRs of controls (HR = 1.05; 95% CI, 0.97-1.15). Based on 28 FDRs of patients versus 291 FDRs of controls registered with cardiomyopathy, the HR for cardiomyopathy was 1.06 (95% CI, 0.72-1.56).

CONCLUSIONS:

In patients with haemochromatosis, the increased risk of cardiomyopathy is much more pronounced than that of IHD, which is barely elevated. FDRs of haemochromatosis patients are not at increased risk of cardiomyopathy or IHD.

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