Rossi, M., Mosca, M., Tani, C. et al. Clin Rheumatol (2008) 27: 1485. doi:10.1007/s10067-008-0953-6
A number of studies based on conventional ultrasound scanning (CUS) gave contrasting results about the occurrence of early atherosclerosis in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), while no study on early arterial sclerosis in the same patients are available. Recently, information on early arterial sclerosis can be provided by the integrated backscatter (IBS) analysis which reflects the collagen and calcium content within the vascular wall. In order to evaluate if atherosis and/or sclerosis of carotid arteries are early features of SLE, we performed carotid CUS and IBS analysis in 16 SLE patients (15 females; aged 37 ± 10 years), free from clinically evident cardiovascular diseases and cardiovascular risk factors, with the only exception of five patients who had arterial hypertension. The same investigations were performed in 16 sex- and age-matched healthy control subjects. No statistically significant difference was observed either in carotid corrected IBS values or in carotid intima–media thickness (IMT) values between SLE patients and control subjects (−17.9 ± 2.5 dB vs −19.0 ± 1.7 dB, p = 0.14; 0.66 ± 0.08 mm vs 0.62 ± 0.13 mm, p = 0.35, respectively). The little sub-group of hypertensive SLE patients exhibited a significantly higher carotid corrected IBS mean value compared to control subjects (−16.4 ± 3.1 dB vs −19.0 ± 1.7 dB, p = 0.026), while it did not significantly differ in carotid IMT value from control group (0.67 ± 0.09 mm vs 0.62 ± 0.13 mm, respectively; p = 0.86). These findings show that neither atherosis nor sclerosis of carotid arteries are early features of SLE patients free from cardiovascular risk factors. Further studies are needed to clearly demonstrate that early carotid sclerosis affects hypertensive SLE patients.