Absence of Fibrosis and Inflammation by Cardiac Magnetic Resonance Imaging in Rheumatoid Arthritis Patients with Low to Moderate Disease Activity

J Rheumatol. 2018 Aug;45(8):1078-1084. doi: 10.3899/jrheum.170770. Epub 2018 Apr 15.


Objective: The prevalence of heart failure is increased 2-fold in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA); this is not explained by ischemic heart disease or other risk factors for heart failure. We hypothesized that in patients with RA without known heart disease, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (cMRI) would detect altered cardiac structure, function, and fibrosis.

Methods: We performed 1.5-T cMRI in 59 patients with RA and 56 controls frequency-matched for age, race, and sex, and compared cMRI indices of structure, function, and fibrosis [late gadolinium enhancement (LGE), native T1 mapping, and extracellular volume (ECV)] using Mann-Whitney U tests and linear regression, adjusting for age, race, and sex.

Results: Most patients with RA had low to moderate disease activity [28-joint count Disease Activity Score-C-reactive protein median 3.16, interquartile range (IQR) 2.03-4.05], and 49% were receiving anti-tumor necrosis factor agents. Left ventricular (LV) mass, LV end-diastolic and -systolic volumes indexed to body surface area, and LV ejection fraction and left atrial size were not altered in RA compared to controls (all p > 0.05). Measures of fibrosis were not increased in RA: LGE was present in 2 patients with RA and 1 control subject; native T1 mapping was similar comparing RA and control subjects, and ECV (median, IQR) was lower (26.6%, 24.7-28.5%) in patients with RA compared to control subjects (27.5%, 25.4-30.4%, p = 0.03).

Conclusion: cMRI measures of cardiac structure and function were not significantly altered, and measures of fibrosis were similar or lower in RA patients with low to moderate disease activity compared to a matched control group.


Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arthritis, Rheumatoid / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Fibrosis / diagnostic imaging*
  • Heart / diagnostic imaging*
  • Humans
  • Inflammation / diagnostic imaging*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Severity of Illness Index