Objective: To establish whether carotid intima-media wall thickness (IMT) may be a good predictor for the development of cardiovascular (CV) events in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
Methods: A series of 47 RA patients who at the time of recruitment did not have traditional CV risk factors or CV disease were assessed by carotid ultrasonography. Carotid IMT and carotid plaques were measured in the right common carotid artery. Then, a prospective assessment of the CV outcome was performed over a 5-year period. Logistic regression models and receiver operating characteristic curves were performed to evaluate the ability of different variables to predict CV events.
Results: Carotid IMT was greater in RA patients who over the extended follow-up experienced CV events (1.01 +/- 0.16 mm) compared with the remaining RA patients who did not have CV complications (0.74 +/- 0.12 mm) (P < 0.001). Also, carotid IMT categorized in quartiles was strongly associated with CV events. In this regard, none of the patients with carotid IMT less than 0.77 mm had CV events. However, 6 of the 10 patients with carotid IMT greater than 0.91 mm experienced CV events (P value for the trend <0.001). Carotid IMT yielded a high predictive power for the development of CV events over the 5-year follow-up period. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve was 0.93 for a model that only included carotid IMT and 0.90 for carotid plaque.
Conclusions: The results from the present study support the use of carotid ultrasonography as a predictor of CV events in RA.