Background and aim: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) is associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD). Among many mechanisms, accelerated atherosclerosis, endothelial dysfunction, and hypercoagulability play a main role. Here, we investigate whether inflammatory, serological and clinical markers of SLE determine and correlate with arterial stiffness in SLE patients.
Materials and methods: Routine blood samples, inflammatory mediators, specific antibodies, and 24 h proteinuria were measured in 43 SLE patients and 43 age and sex-matched controls using routine laboratory assays. We also assessed arterial stiffness by measuring radial artery applanation tonometry-derived augmentation index (AI), normalized AI (AIx@75), aortic pulse pressure, central systolic, diastolic and peripheral blood pressure.
Results: SLE patients showed a significantly greater arterial stiffness vs. controls, as demonstrated by the significantly higher AIx@75 and aortic pulse pressure. Interestingly, regression analysis showed that age, systolic pulse pressure, inflammatory markers (erythrocyte sedimentation rate and C-reactive protein), daily dose of glucocorticoids, and cumulative organ damage positively correlated with arterial stiffness.
Conclusions: SLE patients show increased arterial stiffness which correlates with markers of inflammation, that is involved in early alterations in arterial walls. Applanation tonometry can be used to screen SLE patients for subclinical vascular damage to implement prevention strategies for CVD.
Keywords: arterial stiffness; augmentation index; cardiovascular disease; inflammation; systemic lupus erythematosus.