Background: Cardiac conduction disturbances are common in spondyloarthropathies such as ankylosing spondylitis (AS). Whether their occurrence can be linked to signs and symptoms of rheumatic disease activity is an unsettled issue addressed in this study.
Methods: In this cross-sectional study patients with AS according to modified New York criteria but without psoriasis, inflammatory bowel disease, dementia, pregnancy, other severe diseases such as malignancy and difficulties in answering questionnaires were invited; and 210 participated (120 men), mean age 49 years (SD 13; range: 16-77). Questionnaires, physical examination, ECG, and laboratory tests were performed at the same visit.
Results: Cardiac conduction disturbances were common and diagnosed in 10-33%, depending on if conservative or less conservative predefined criteria were applied. They consisted mostly of 1st degree atrio-ventricular block and prolonged QRS duration, but one patient had a pacemaker and 7 more had complete bundle branch blocks. Conduction abnormalities were associated mainly with age, male gender and body weight, and not with laboratory measures of inflammation or with Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease Activity Index. Neither were they associated with the presence of HLA B27, which was found in 87% of all patients; the subtype B270502 dominated in all patients.
Conclusions: Cardiac conduction abnormalities are common in AS, but not associated with markers of disease activity or specific B27 subtypes. Even relatively mild conduction system abnormalities might, however, indirectly affect morbidity and mortality.