Giant cell arteritis is the most frequent vasculitis. Cardiovascular events such as cerebrovascular accident or ischemic heart disease may occur in patients with giant cell arteritis. However, their real incidence, as well as their relative risk compared to the general population, remains unknown.
Purpose: To assess in a prospective, double cohort study, the incidence of cardiovascular events in giant cell arteritis patients compared to controls, after controlling for cardiovascular risk factors.
Patients and methods: We included on predefined criteria 432 newly diagnosed patients with giant cell arteritis, each assigned to sex- and age-matched controls randomly selected from the general population. Cardiovascular risk factors (high-blood pressure, diabetes, smoking, hypercholesterolemia and preexisting peripheral vascular disease) were collected at inclusion. During the 24-month follow-up, all cardiovascular events were collected. After stratification for cardiovascular risk factors, a log-rank test was performed to compare cases and controls. A parametric survival model was used for multivariate analysis.
Results: Cardiovascular events all combined were significantly increased in patients with giant cell arteritis (RR = 2.15 [1.21-3.81], P = 0.009), and were mainly associated with age (P = 0.0001), past history of cardiovascular disease (P = 0.023) but also with giant cell arteritis (P = 0.009). However, each subset of cerebrovascular accident (RR = 2.42 [0.84-7]) or ischemic heart disease (RR = 1.67 [0.72-3.89]) increased but did not significantly.
Conclusion: Cardiovascular events incidence is increased in patients with giant cell arteritis, and prescription of preventive antiagregant treatment may be discussed.