Incidence of and risk factors for adverse cardiovascular events among patients with systemic lupus erythematosus

Am J Epidemiol. 2012 Oct 15;176(8):708-19. doi: 10.1093/aje/kws130. Epub 2012 Sep 27.


Patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) are at excess risk of cardiovascular events (CVEs). There is uncertainty regarding the relative importance of SLE disease activity, medications, or traditional risk factors in this increased risk. To gain insight into this, the authors analyzed data from a cohort of 1,874 patients with SLE who were seen quarterly at a single clinical center (April 1987-June 2010) using pooled logistic regression analysis. In 9,485 person-years of follow-up, the authors observed 134 CVEs (rate = 14.1/1,000 person-years). This was 2.66 times what would be expected in the general population based on Framingham risk scores (95% confidence interval: 2.16, 3.16). After adjustment for age, CVE rates were not associated with duration of SLE. However, they were associated with average past levels of SLE disease activity and recent levels of circulating anti-double-stranded DNA. Past use of corticosteroids (in the absence of current use) was not associated with CVE rates. However, persons currently using 20 mg/day or more of corticosteroids had a substantial increase in risk even after adjustment for disease activity. Thus, consistent with findings in several recent publications among cohorts with other diseases, current use of corticosteroids was associated with an increased risk of CVEs. These results suggest a short-term impact of corticosteroids on CVE risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Antibodies, Antinuclear / blood
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / blood
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Confidence Intervals
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Glucocorticoids / administration & dosage
  • Glucocorticoids / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Logistic Models
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / blood
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / complications*
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / drug therapy
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / epidemiology*
  • Maryland / epidemiology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Time Factors


  • Antibodies, Antinuclear
  • Biomarkers
  • Glucocorticoids