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Angiology. 1998 Feb;49(2):137-43.

Arterial calcifications in beta-thalassemia.

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  • 1First Department of Internal Medicine, University of Athens, Greece.


The purpose of this study was to define the incidence of arterial calcifications in patients with beta-thalassemia. Beta-thalassemia patients have been shown to present a high prevalence of angioid streaks and skin lesions characteristic of pseudoxanthoma elasticum (PXE). Given the fact that vascular involvement in the form of arterial calcifications is also a common manifestation of PXE, the authors investigated radiographically the presence of arterial calcifications in beta-thalassemia patients. They studied 40 patients with beta-thalassemia over 30 years of age. Forty healthy, age- and sex-matched subjects were chosen as a control group. Radiographs of the tibias were performed in order to disclose arterial calcifications. The occurrence of PXE skin lesions and of angioid streaks (AS) was also investigated. Arterial calcifications were detected in the posterior tibial artery in 22 (55%) beta-thalassemia patients and in six (15%) controls (P < 0.01 for the comparison). PXE skin lesions and AS were found in eight (20%) and 21 (52%) patients respectively. A total of 34 patients (85%) had at least one of the three lesions, namely, arterial calcifications, angioid streaks, and/or PXE-like skin lesions. Stepwise logistic regression analysis did not reveal prognostic value in independent variables such as transfusions, chelation therapy, pseudoxanthoma elasticum skin lesions and/or angioid streaks, diabetes, hemoglobin, serum ferritin, and uric acid. It was concluded that arterial calcifications are common in older beta-thalassemia patients. This finding could be a manifestation of an acquired PXE syndrome associated with beta-thalassemia, and consequently, vascular events complicating PXE should be expected in these patients.

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