Inflammatory burden interacts with conventional cardiovascular risk factors for carotid plaque formation in rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatology (Oxford). 2015 May;54(5):808-15. doi: 10.1093/rheumatology/keu376. Epub 2014 Oct 9.


Objective: Patients with RA have an increased risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular (CV) diseases compared with the general population. The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of inflammatory burden in the formation of carotid plaques in patients with RA.

Methods: We performed carotid artery US to measure the carotid intima-media thickness (IMT) and plaques in 406 patients with RA and 209 age- and sex-matched healthy controls. To assess the inflammatory burden, the area under the curve (AUC) of ESR over time was calculated.

Results: The carotid plaque frequency and mean IMT were significantly increased in patients with RA relative to controls. After adjustment for age and gender, the presence of carotid plaques in patients with RA was associated with HAQ score, tender joint count (TJC), swollen joint count (SJC), 28-joint DAS, ESR, CRP, LEF use, current corticosteroid dose and the number of conventional CV risk factors. After multivariate regression analysis, the factors significantly associated with plaque formation were TJC (P = 0.002), ESR (P = 0.002) and the number of conventional CV risk factors (P = 0.041). Among 194 RA patients with ESR AUC data, the presence of carotid plaque was independently associated with both the ESR AUC and number of conventional CV risk factors, which showed a synergistic interaction.

Conclusion: Cumulative inflammatory burden contributes to the development of carotid atherosclerosis through a synergistic interaction with conventional CV risk factors in patients with RA.

Keywords: atherosclerosis; inflammation; rheumatoid arthritis; risk factors; ultrasound.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Area Under Curve
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / blood*
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / complications*
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Sedimentation
  • C-Reactive Protein / metabolism
  • Carotid Arteries / diagnostic imaging
  • Carotid Intima-Media Thickness*
  • Carotid Stenosis / epidemiology*
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / blood*
  • Inflammation / complications*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Regression Analysis
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers
  • C-Reactive Protein