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Clin Cardiol. 2014 Dec;37(12):738-43. doi: 10.1002/clc.22332. Epub 2014 Sep 18.

Evaluation of ascending aorta wall in rheumatoid arthritis by tissue and strain Doppler imaging during anti-tumor necrosis factor-α therapy.

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Section of Cardiovascular Diseases, Department of Medical and Surgical Specialties, Radiological Sciences and Public Health, University of Study of Brescia, Brescia, Italy.



Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are at increased risk of vascular events. Data on the effects of tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) blocking agents on aortic vascular function are still debated.


To evaluate the effects of anti-TNF-α treatment on elastic properties of the ascending aorta (distensibility, stiffness, and tissue Doppler imaging [TDI] strain) in RA patients.


We prospectively followed 13 patients affected by RA without cardiovascular risk factors for 1 year during anti-TNF-α treatment. Every subject received an echocardiographic examination before starting anti-TNF-α drugs and after 1 year. Aortic elastic properties were calculated from the echocardiographically derived thoracic aortic diameters, and TDI strain was measured on the wall of the ascending aorta 3 cm above the aortic valve.


We found lower distensibility (12.9 ± 3.5 vs 21.5 ± 7.5 mm Hg(-1); P <0.001) and a higher stiffness index (21.3 ± 3.6 vs 11.7 ± 1.4; P <0.001) in RA cases at baseline compared with values after 1 year of treatment. Peak systolic (S') and diastolic (E' and A') waves of the aortic wall TDI were similar at baseline and at 1 year follow-up (S' wave: 5.6 ± 2.2 cm/s vs 6.5 ± 2.6 cm/s, E' wave: -4.6 ± 2.9 vs -5.0 ± 1.2 cm/s, A' wave: -5.6 ± 0.19 vs -5.9 ± 2.05 cm/s), whereas TDI strain of the aortic wall was improved after anti-TNF-α treatment (-23.7 ± 1.4% vs -31.6 ± 2.8%, P < 0.001).


Anti-TNF-α treatment after 12 months significantly modifies the elastic properties of the aorta. This may reflect the favorable changes in its elastic tissue after anti-TNF-α treatment in RA patients without cardiovascular risk factors. This suggests a potential cardiovascular risk benefit.

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