Background: Premature arterial stiffening and atherosclerosis are increased in patients with inflammatory arthropathies such as rheumatoid arthritis (RA), ankylosing spondylitis (AS) and psoriatic arthritis (PsA). The proinflammatory protein calprotectin is associated with inflammatory arthropathies, vascular pathology, and acute coronary events. We examined the long-term effects of treatment with tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α antagonists on aortic stiffness and carotid intima media thickness (CIMT) in patients with inflammatory arthropathies, and the relationships to the levels of calprotectin.
Methods: Fifty-five patients with RA, AS, or PsA and a clinical indication for anti-TNF-α therapy were included and followed with regular examinations for 1 year. Thirty-six patients starting with anti-TNF-α therapy were compared with a nontreatment group of 19 patients. Examinations included assessments of aortic stiffness (aortic pulse wave velocity, aPWV), CIMT, and plasma calprotectin.
Results: After 1 year, aPWV (mean (s.d.)) was improved in the treatment group, but not in the control group (-0.54 [0.79] m/s vs. 0.06 [0.61] m/s, respectively; P = 0.004), and CIMT progression (median (quartile cut-points, 25th and 75th percentiles)) was reduced in the treatment group compared to the control group (-0.002 [-0.038, 0.030] mm vs. 0.030 [0.011, 0.043] mm, respectively; P = 0.01). In multivariable analyses, anti-TNF-α therapy over time was associated with improved aPWV (P = 0.02) and reduced CIMT progression (P = 0.04), and calprotectin was longitudinally associated with aPWV (P = 0.02).
Conclusions: Long-term anti-TNF-α therapy improved aortic stiffness and CIMT progression in patients with inflammatory arthropathies. Calprotectin may be a soluble biomarker reflecting aortic stiffening in these patients.