Suboptimal cardiovascular risk factor identification and management in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a cohort analysis

Arthritis Res Ther. 2012 Dec 13;14(6):R270. doi: 10.1186/ar4118.


Introduction: Accelerated cardiovascular (CV) disease significantly contributes to increased mortality in rheumatoid arthritis (RA) patients, with a risk comparable to the one observed in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus (DM). Part of this enhanced risk in RA is attributed to traditional cardiovascular risk factors (CRFs). The aims of this study were to determine how often traditional CRFs are identified and managed by (a) rheumatologists, compared with primary care physicians (PCPs) in RA patients; and (b) PCPs among patients with RA, DM, and the general population (GP).

Methods: A retrospective cohort study compared age/gender/ethnicity-matched patients from three groups: RA, DM, and GP (without RA or DM); n = 251 patients per group. Electronic patient records were reviewed during a continuous 12-month period between June 2007 and April 2011 to assess whether CRFs were identified and managed.

Results: In RA patients, PCPs managed obesity, BP, and lipids significantly more often than did rheumatologists. PCPs managed obesity, BP, and lipids significantly more often in diabetic patients than in the other two groups, and more often in the GP than in RA patients. In patients with elevated BMI, PCPs managed weight in 68% of the DM group, 46% of the GP, and 31% of the RA group (P < 0.0001 for all groups; P = 0.006 between RA and GP groups).

Conclusions: Rheumatologists identify and manage CRFs less frequently than PCPs. PCPs manage CRFs less frequently in RA patients, compared to the GP and DM. Given the increased CV risk associated with RA, physicians need to more aggressively manage CRFs in these patients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnosis
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / drug therapy*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / diagnosis
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Cohort Studies
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / diagnosis
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / drug therapy*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lipids / blood
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Physicians, Primary Care / statistics & numerical data
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / trends
  • Primary Health Care / statistics & numerical data*
  • Primary Health Care / trends
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking


  • Lipids