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Arthritis Res Ther. 2018 Dec 3;20(1):266. doi: 10.1186/s13075-018-1761-2.

Carotid artery volumetric measures associate with clinical ten-year cardiovascular (CV) risk scores and individual traditional CV risk factors in rheumatoid arthritis; a carotid-MRI feasibility study.

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Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.
NIHR Leeds Biomedical Research Centre, Leeds, UK.
Multidisciplinary Cardiovascular Research Centre & The Division of Biomedical Imaging, Leeds Institute of Cardiovascular and Metabolic Medicine, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.
Medical University of Lublin, Lublin, Poland.
Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine, University of Leeds, Leeds, UK.
NIHR Leeds Biomedical Research Centre, Leeds, UK.



Common carotid artery intima-media thickness (CIMT), as measured by ultrasound, has utility in stratification of the accelerated cardiovascular risk seen in rheumatoid arthritis (RA); however, the technique has limitations. Carotid magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is emerging as a useful research tool in the general population, but has yet to be applied in RA populations. Our objectives were to describe the utility of carotid artery MRI (carotid-MRI) in patients with RA in comparison to healthy controls and to describe the association with RA disease phenotype.


Sixty-four patients with RA and no history of cardiovascular (CV) disease/diabetes mellitus were assessed for RA and CV profile, including homeostasis model assessment-estimated insulin resistance (HOMA-IR) and N-terminal pro-brain natriuretic peptide (NT-proBNP). All underwent carotid-MRI (3 T), and were compared to 24 healthy controls. Univariable analysis (UVA) and multivariable linear regression models (MVA) were used to determine associations between disease phenotype and carotid-MRI measures.


There were no significant differences in carotid arterial wall measurements between patients with RA and controls. Wall and luminal volume correlated with 10-year CV risk scores (adjusted as per 2017 European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) guidance); rho = 0.33 (p = 0.012) and rho = 0.35 (p = 0.008), respectively, for Joint British Societies-2 risk score. In UVA, carotid-MRI volumetric measures predominantly were associated with traditional CV risk factors including age, ever-smoking and HOMA-IR (p < 0.05). Lower body mass index was associated with wall maximum thickness (r = - 0.25 p = 0.026). In MVA, age was independently associated with wall volume (B 1.13 (95% CI 0.32, 1.93), p = 0.007) and luminal volume (B 3.69 (95% CI 0.55, 6.83, p = 0.022), and RA disease duration was associated with luminal volume (B 3.88 (95% CI 0.80, 6.97), p = 0.015).


This study demonstrates the utility of carotid-MRI in RA, reporting an association between three-dimensional measures in particular and CV risk scores, individual traditional CV risk factors and RA disease duration. Carotid-MRI in RA is a promising research tool in the investigation of CVD.


Atherosclerosis; Carotid MRI; Rheumatoid arthritis

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