Public Release: 

Early RA patients have impaired myocardial and vascular function at early stage of disease

Higher risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality should be actively managed from time of diagnosis

European League Against Rheumatism

Rome, Italy, 12 June 2015: The results of a study presented today at the European League Against Rheumatism Annual Congress (EULAR 2015) demonstrated for the first time that treatment-naive patients with early Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) have myocardial and vascular abnormalities, even at the earliest stage of their disease. These findings suggest that patients may develop early cardiomyopathy (disease of the heart muscle), increasing their risk of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality from the time of their diagnosis. Cardiomyopathy is a serious condition and a leading cause of hospitalisation worldwide.

Patients with RA have an excess risk of heart failure and associated mortality compared with the general population. Previous cardiac studies of patients with established RA have demonstrated left ventricular (LV) abnormalities associated with the development of heart failure and CV morbidity and mortality. This is the first study to use cardiac MRI to identify the presence of changes in myocardial and vascular function in treatment-naïve early RA.

"We've seen that, even in patients with early RA, changes suggestive of cardiomyopathy are evident, including reduced vascular function, ventricular volumes, and a trend towards a change in LV geometry," said senior author Dr. Maya Buch of the Leeds Institute of Rheumatic and Musculoskeletal Medicine, University of Leeds. "Further investigation will now be required to clarify the natural history of these changes, their clinical implications, and most importantly the scope to modify CV outcomes with effective RA therapy," she added.

EULAR guidelines recommend that the increased CV risk for RA patients is managed by involving a cardiovascular specialist, and with aggressive suppression of the inflammatory process using one or more DMARDs .

66 patients with treatment-naïve early RA fulfilling ACR /EULAR classification criteria and with no previous history of CV disease underwent cardiac MRI. All patients had experienced RA symptoms for less than 1 year, were DMARD treatment-naïve, and had a minimum disease activity score (DAS28 ) of at least 3.2. Thirty healthy controls were matched by age, sex and blood pressure for comparison.

Aortic stiffness is considered to be an independent predictor of cardiovascular mortality and is measured by aortic distensibility, the ability of the artery to expand. Distensibility was significantly reduced in the early RA patients compared to healthy controls (p=0.001), with other measures of arterial stiffness showing similar significant differences. Left ventricular and right ventricular end-systolic and end-diastolic volumes were all significantly lower in the group of early RA patients vs. healthy controls.


Abstract Number: OP0163


For further information on this study, or to request an interview with the study lead, please do not hesitate to contact the EULAR congress Press Office in Room 5B of Fiera Roma during EULAR 2015 or on:
Onsite tel: +44 (0) 7738 890 799/ +44 (0) 20 7331 5442
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Youtube: Eular Pressoffice


The European League Against Rheumatism (EULAR) is an umbrella organisation which represents scientific societies, health professional associations and organisations for people with rheumatic diseases throughout Europe.

EULAR aims to promote, stimulate and support the research, prevention, and treatment of rheumatic diseases and the rehabilitation of those it affects.

With 45 scientific member societies, 35 People with Arthritis and Rheumatism in Europe (PARE) organisations, 19 health professionals associations and 21 corporate members, EULAR highlights the importance of combating rheumatic diseases through both medical means and patient care.

EULAR 2015 is set to be the biggest rheumatology event in Europe with around 14,000 scientists, physicians, allied health professionals and related audiences in attendance from more than 120 countries. Over the course of the congress there will be some 300 oral and just under 2,000 poster abstract presentations, more than 150 sessions, 400 lectures, 40 poster tours and 350 invited speakers.

To find out more about the activities of EULAR, visit:

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