Introduction: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) was independently associated with cardiovascular events in several studies, most of which were conducted in the US.
Objectives: To estimate the risk of cardiovascular events in a cohort of RA patients recruited at a hospital in France, to identify cardiovascular risk factors, and to measure the severity of cardiovascular events.
Methods: Two hundred and thirty-nine patients admitted between January 1, 1998, and March 31, 1999, for RA meeting American College of Rheumatology criteria, with a negative history for cardiovascular events, were sent a questionnaire in 2004 to evaluate the occurrence of myocardial infarction, stroke, or cardiovascular death.
Results: During the mean follow-up of 5.4+/-1.8 years, there were 10 cases of myocardial infarction (0.8%/year), 3 cases of stroke (0.2%/year), and 9 cardiovascular deaths (0.7%/year). Of the 10 patients who experienced myocardial infarction, 5 had clinical symptoms of heart failure and 4 died from cardiovascular causes. Independent risk factors for cardiovascular events were older age (relative risk [RR], 2.5/10 years; 95% confidence interval [95%CI], 1.4-4.2), male gender (RR, 5.1; 95%CI, 1.8-14.6), treated hypertension (RR, 4.3; 95%CI, 1.4-13.2), and treated hypercholesterolemia (RR, 6.0; 95%CI, 1.8-20.7).
Conclusion: Our data suggest a higher risk of cardiovascular events in patients with RA compared to the general population in France (0.1-0.5%/year for myocardial infarction and 0.07%/year for stroke in the age group covered by our cohort). Cardiovascular events in the patients with RA seemed unusually severe. Patients with RA should be carefully screened for conventional cardiovascular risk factors.