The epidemiology of atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease among patients with SLE: a systematic review

Semin Arthritis Rheum. 2013 Aug;43(1):77-95. doi: 10.1016/j.semarthrit.2012.12.002. Epub 2013 Feb 17.


Objective: To perform a systematic review of the literature regarding the epidemiology of the association between systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) and atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (CVD), including the increased risk for CVD, as well as the risk factors responsible for development of CVD in patients with SLE.

Methods: We followed the PRISMA guidelines to systematically search the PubMed database from inception to June 2012. Studies were selected using predefined eligibility criteria, and 2 authors independently extracted data. The risk of bias was measured for each study using a domain-based assessment.

Results: We report on 28 studies that met criteria for inclusion in our analysis. We found strong epidemiologic evidence that SLE patients have an increased relative risk of CVD compared to controls. There is limited information regarding relative CVD mortality risks among SLE patients. Traditional CVD risk factors, including age, male sex, hyperlipidemia, smoking, hypertension, and CRP, are associated with CVD risk among SLE patients. Several SLE-specific factors, including disease activity and duration, and possibly specific manifestations and therapies, further increase risk. Several risk factors, such as disease activity and glucocorticoid use, are closely associated, making it difficult to disentangle their effects.

Conclusions: CVD risk among SLE patients compared to the general population is at least doubled. While older SLE patients appear to have the highest absolute risks of CVD, young women have alarmingly high relative risks, given the rarity of CVD in the comparison general population. Both traditional and SLE-specific risk factors are important, although there are discrepancies within the literature.

Keywords: Atherosclerosis; C-reactive protein; CABG; CAD; CHF; CRP; CV; CVA; CVD; Cardiovascular; Cohort study; Coronary artery disease; Epidemiology; MI; Myocardial infarction; PVD; Risk; Risk factors; SLE; Systemic lupus erythematosus; cardiovascular; cardiovascular disease; cerebrovascular accident; congestive heart failure; coronary artery bypass grafting; coronary artery disease; myocardial infarction; peripheral vascular disease; systemic lupus erythematosus.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Atherosclerosis / epidemiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / epidemiology*
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lupus Erythematosus, Systemic / epidemiology*
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Risk