Objective: To compare the clinical presentation, management, and outcome of heart failure in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) compared with non-RA patients.
Methods: We conducted a community-based cohort study in the setting of Olmsted County, Minnesota, from 1979 to 2000. One hundred three patients with RA and 852 non-RA patients with incident heart failure (physician diagnosed and Framingham criteria validated) were compared. Age- and sex-adjusted rates/frequencies and multivariable logistic regression models were used to compare the clinical features and mortality of heart failure following its onset in the 2 groups of patients.
Results: The patients with RA were more often female and less frequently were obese, were hypertensive, or had ischemic heart disease. Patients with RA and heart failure had fewer typical symptoms and signs and were less likely to undergo echocardiography compared with non-RA patients. After adjusting for differences, the patients with RA and heart failure were more likely to have preserved ejection fraction (>or=50%). Mortality at 1 year following heart failure was higher in patients with RA compared with non-RA patients (35% versus 19%; multivariable hazard ratio 1.89, 95% confidence interval 1.26-2.84).
Conclusion: Both the clinical presentation and the outcome of heart failure differ significantly between patients with and those without RA from the same population. Among patients with RA, the presentation of heart failure is more subtle, myocardial function is more likely preserved, while mortality from heart failure is significantly higher. These findings emphasize the importance of more vigilant screening of patients with RA for early signs of heart failure and may represent important insights into the biologic mechanisms underlying heart failure in RA.