Purpose: We sought to determine the frequency of heart failure in patients with rheumatoid arthritis, and to determine its predictors, particularly the use of anti-tumor necrosis factor (TNF) therapy.
Methods: Rheumatoid arthritis (n = 13,171) and osteoarthritis (n = 2568) patients were studied during a 2-year period ending in June 2002. The diagnosis of heart failure was based on self-report or review of medical records. Propensity scores were used to adjust for the risk of anti-TNF (infliximab and etanercept) prescription.
Results: Heart failure was more common among patients with rheumatoid arthritis (3.9% [n = 461]) than in those with osteoarthritis (2.3% [n = 87]), after adjusting for differences in demographic characteristics. Patients with rheumatoid arthritis had similar risk factors for heart failure (e.g., hypertension, prior myocardial infarction, diabetes, advanced age) as persons in population-based studies. Heart failure was significantly (P <0.05) less common in anti-TNF-treated patients (3.1% [180/5832]) than in the remaining patients (3.8% [281/7339]), even after adjusting for baseline differences. In the absence of pre-existing cardiovascular disease, the risk of heart failure was low (0.4% [24/6251]) and was not related to anti-TNF therapy.
Conclusion: Our results suggest that rheumatoid arthritis increases the risk of heart failure, which may be ameliorated by anti-TNF therapies.