Objective: According to published studies, 16-82% of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients have abnormal findings on myocardial perfusion tests, but it has not been established whether these patients also have abnormal findings on coronary angiography. The aim of this study was to evaluate the frequency of abnormal findings on coronary angiography in SLE patients in whom myocardial perfusion scintigraphy revealed abnormalities.
Methods: Ninety female SLE patients (ages 20-55 years, disease duration >5 years, and current or previous steroid treatment for >/=1 year) underwent myocardial perfusion scintigraphy with single-photon-emission computed tomography using (99m)Tc-sestamibi. Images were taken while the patient was at rest and after dipyridamole-induced stress. Myocardial perfusion defects were identified in 30 patients (33%). Twenty-one of these patients (mean +/- SD age 42 +/- 9; mean +/- SD disease duration 132 +/- 66 months) agreed to undergo coronary angiography.
Results: Atherosclerotic plaques were identified by angiography in 8 of the 21 patients (38%). The majority of coronary abnormalities were localized in the anterior descending artery. The mean +/- SD number of risk factors for coronary artery disease (CAD) was significantly higher in the subgroup with (4.5 +/- 0.8) compared with the subgroup without (2.5 +/- 1.9) abnormal angiographic findings (P = 0.006). Arterial hypertension and postmenopause status were significantly associated with abnormal angiographic findings. Of the patients with at least 4 risk factors for CAD, coronary stenosis was present in 67% (P = 0.005). The number of American College of Rheumatology (ACR) criteria for SLE and scores on the SLE Disease Activity Index and the Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics/ACR damage index were also higher in the subgroup with coronary stenosis (P < 0.05).
Conclusion: This is the first study to examine coronary angiography results in SLE patients with abnormal findings on myocardial scintigraphy. Our data suggest that myocardial scintigraphy can be used to screen SLE patients and that all patients with abnormal findings plus at least 4 risk factors for CAD should undergo coronary angiography.