Background: Ankylosing spondylitis (AS) is a chronic inflammatory disease with involvement of axial and sacroiliac joints. In addition, patients with AS have increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which might be attributed to enhanced inflammatory activity of the arterial wall. In the present study, we compared the level of carotid arterial wall inflammation in patients with AS with healthy controls using (18)F-fluorodeoxyglucose ((18)F-FDG) positron emission tomography with CT. As arterial wall inflammation is reduced by statin therapy, we subsequently assessed the effect of 3-month statin therapy on arterial wall inflammation in AS.
Methods and results: We included 24 patients with AS (age 44±10, 72% males) without a history of CVD and 20 controls matched for age and gender. Patients with AS had lower high-density lipoprotein cholesterol and increased C reactive protein (CRP) compared with controls. The 10-year CVD risk was 2% in both groups. Notwithstanding, patients with AS had a 20% increase in arterial wall (18)F-FDG uptake compared with controls. Three-month atorvastatin 40 mg daily significantly lowered low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (baseline 3.55±1.15 mmol/L, -53%) and CRP (baseline 5.0 (1.5-9.3) mg/L, -58%) with a concomitant decrease of carotid arterial wall inflammation (maximum target-to-background ratio from 1.90±0.30 to 1.67±0.27; p=0.009).
Conclusions: Patients with AS and without other CVD risk factors have increased arterial wall inflammation, which decreases upon statin therapy. These subjects are not identified as being at risk in current cardiovascular prevention guidelines. Our data support the need to revise CV disease management in AS, with perhaps a role for early statin therapy.
Keywords: Ankylosing Spondylitis; Atherosclerosis; Cardiovascular Disease; Inflammation; Treatment.
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