Context and objective: Atherosclerotic disease is an important cause of morbidity and mortality in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) patients. No previous study has estimated carotid disease prevalence in such patients in Brazil. The aim was to evaluate the prevalence of atherosclerotic plaque in carotid arteries, in SLE patients and controls, and to verify possible associations between risk factors and carotid plaque.
Design and setting: Cross-sectional study, at Universidade Federal de São Paulo--Escola Paulista de Medicina.
Methods: Carotid plaque prevalence was assessed by B-mode ultrasound in 82 female SLE patients of mean age 34.0 years and 62 controls of mean age 35.7 years. Plaque was defined as a distinct area of hyperechogenicity and/or focal protrusion of the vessel wall into the lumen. Risk factors for coronary disease and SLE-related variables were determined.
Results: 50% of patients and 29% of controls presented carotid plaque. Older age, longer disease duration, higher Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics (SLICC) score, higher levels of low-density lipoprotein and greater diabetes, obesity, premature ovarian failure and family history of coronary artery disease were found in patients with carotid plaque than in those without plaque. Patients with plaque were younger than controls with plaque. SLE diagnosis, obesity, older age, higher SLICC score and longer disease duration were independent risk factors for carotid plaque.
Conclusion: Young patients with SLE present higher prevalence of carotid plaque than controls. SLE diagnosis was a significant risk factor for carotid atherosclerosis.