Introduction: Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) have an increased cardiovascular (CV) morbidity and mortality. Pulse-wave velocity (PWV) and augmentation index (AIx) are non-invasive methods to assess arterial stiffness, a marker of CV risk. We performed a meta-analysis evaluating the impact of RA on aortic-PWV, brachial-PWV, brachial-ankle (ba-) PWV, AIx, and AIx normalized to a 75 beats/minute heart rate (AIx@75).
Materials and methods: Studies evaluating the relationship between RA and aortic-PWV, brachial-PWV, ba-PWV, AIx, and AIx@75 were systematically searched. A total of 25 studies (1,472 RA patients, 1,583 controls) were included.
Results: Compared to controls, RA patients showed a significantly higher aortic-PWV (mean difference 1.32 m/s; 95% CI 0.77, 1.88; P < 0.00001), ba-PWV (MD 198.42 cm/s; 95% CI 45.79, 342.76; P = 0.01), AIx (MD 11.50%; 95% CI 5.15, 17.86; P = 0.0004), and AIx@75 (MD 6.99%; 95% CI 4.92, 9.06; P < 0.00001), with a trend toward a higher brachial-PWV (MD 0.34 m/s; 95% CI -0.03, 0.70; P = 0.07). When analyzing studies on early RA, the difference in aortic-PWV among RA patients and controls was even higher (MD 2.30 m/s; 95% CI 1.15, 3.45; P < 0.0001).
Conclusion: Meta-regression showed that a more severe inflammatory status impacted on aortic-PWV, AIx, and AIx@75. Arterial stiffness, a recognized marker of CV risk, is increased in RA patients. This alteration is associated with the severity of the inflammatory status and is present even in early-stage disease.
Keywords: Arterial stiffness; augmentation index; cardiovascular risk; pulse-wave velocity; rheumatoid arthritis.