Background: Low bone mineral density (BMD) and vertebral fractures (VF) have been associated with atherosclerosis in the general population. We sought to investigate the relationship between BMD and VF and carotid atherosclerosis in women with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE).
Methods: We studied 122 women with SLE. All patients had BMD, carotid intima-media thickness (IMT), and carotid artery atherosclerotic plaque assessment by ultrasound.
Results: Mean age at study entry was 44 years and mean disease duration was 11 years. Carotid plaque was found in 13 (11%) patients (9 postmenopausal and 4 premenopausal). Patients in the highest IMT quartile were more likely to be older (p = 0.001), have a higher body mass index (p = 0.008), and exhibit dyslipidemia at study entry (p = 0.041), compared with the lower three quartiles. BMD at the lumbar spine was lower in patients in the highest IMT quartile compared with the lower quartiles in the multivariate logistic analysis, however, there was no association between lumbar or total hip BMD and IMT (p = 0.91 and p = 0.6, respectively). IMT measurements did not differ according to the presence or absence of VF (0.08 ± 0.12 vs. 0.06 ± 0.03 mm, p = 0.11). A trend towards higher incidence of VF was found in patients with carotid plaque compared with those without (33% vs. 21%; p = 0.2).
Conclusions: In patients with SLE, the presence of carotid atherosclerosis is not associated with low BMD or VF.
Keywords: Bone mineral density; subclinical atherosclerosis; systemic lupus erythematosus; vertebral fractures.
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