The results of some epidemiological studies point to the presence of an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), particularly atherosclerosis and congestive heart failure (CHF) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). At least 50% of abnormalities remained asymptomatic. Pathological conditions contributing to myocardial dysfunction such as high serum levels of IL-6, C-reactive protein (CRP) and TNF alpha are present both in RA and CHF patients. The most common pathological mechanism leading to the development of heart failure is left ventricular (LV) diastolic dysfunction, which remains clinically asymptomatic for a long time. The aim of this study was to assess the systolic and diastolic functions of the LV in RA patients without clinically evident cardiovascular disease, using pulsed Doppler echocardiography. Our purpose was also to estimate whether there is a correlation between the duration and severity of RA and the degree of LV diastolic dysfunction. A comparison of the average values of echocardiographic measurements was made between the RA group and control group, which constituted healthy volunteers. Left ventricular mass index in RA group was significantly greater than in the control group (105.2 ± 32.6 vs. 87.9 ± 16.8; p < 0.05) so were the interventricular septum end-diastolic thickness (1.01 ± 0.33 vs. 0.86 ± 0.12; p < 0.05), the LV posterior wall end-diastolic thickness (0.94 ± 0.08 vs. 0.83 ± 0.11; p < 0.0001) and the aortic root diameter (3.18 ± 0.31 vs. 3.10 ± 0.63, p < 0.001). The ejection fraction in RA group was significantly lower than in the control group (64.4 ± 1.3 vs. 66.3 ± 1.3; p < 0.0001). The assessment of diastolic function parameters revealed significantly longer isovolumetrc relaxation time (IVRT) and shorter deceleration time (DT) in RA patients compared to the control group. Patients in stage II or III revealed significantly lower LV mass index (99 ± 17 vs. 131 ± 42; p < 0.05) and the interventricular septum end-diastolic thickness (0.94 ± 0.10 vs. 1.28 ± 0.5; p < 0.05) than those in stage IV. Mean aortic diameter was significantly greater in individuals in stages III and IV (3.73 ± 0.28) than in the stage II of the disease (2.77 ± 0.21), p < 0.05. No differences in echocardiographic parameters’ values were observed between seropositive, seronegative, nodule-present and nodule-absent persons. Echocardiographic examination revealed valvular heart disease in 24 (80%) RA and 6 (20%) control patients (p < 0.0001).
Rheumatoid arthritisDiastolic function of heartDoppler echocardiography