Objectives: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Carotid intima media thickness (cIMT) is frequently used to identify populations at elevated cardiovascular risk. A systematic literature search and meta-analysis were performed to evaluate cIMT difference between RA and controls.
Methods: The literature was screened to identify all available studies comparing cIMT in RA patients and controls. Random effects meta-analysis was performed to estimate the overall mean cIMT difference between both groups. Meta-regression was performed to assess the influence of age and the degree of comparability regarding established cardiovascular risk factors on cIMT difference. Potential publication bias was examined by a funnel plot and Egger test.
Results: From 22 studies, cIMT data were available from 1384 RA patients and 1147 controls. In 17 of the studies, RA patients had a statistically significantly greater cIMT. The overall mean cIMT difference was 0.09 mm (95%CI: 0.07-0.11 mm). Heterogeneity was observed (I(2) 72.5%, P < 0.001). A likely source of heterogeneity was the difference in cardiovascular risk factors between RA patients and controls at baseline, but not age. The funnel plot did not show a skewed or asymmetrical shape, which was supported by the Egger's test (P = 0.87).
Conclusions: Our observations support the current evidence base for an increased cardiovascular burden in RA and support the use of cIMT in observational studies in RA patients. The next step is to determine its utility as a surrogate cardiovascular risk marker in RA in prospective studies.
Copyright © 2011 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.