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Increased epicardial fat thickness in rheumatoid arthritis patients

Objective: Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is the most common inflammatory arthritis. Known risk factors, along with inflammation and autoimmunity, contribute to the development of coronary artery disease in RA patients. Epicardial adipose tissue (EAT) is a strong risk factor for coronary artery disease. The present study aimed to compare EAT thickness in RA patients with a healthy control group.

Methods: The study included 31 RA patients (female: 25, male: 6; mean age: 52.74 ± 11.30) and 33 healthy individuals (female: 29, male: 4; mean age: 48.55 ± 9.27) as the control group. Patients with cardiovascular disease and other comorbid diseases were not included. The EAT thickness of patient and control groups was measured using transthoracic echocardiography. Demographic, clinical and laboratory findings of all the subjects were recorded. The EAT thickness, demographic, clinical and laboratory findings of RA patients were compared with those of control group.

Results: The epicardial fat thickness was significantly higher in the patient group than the control group (0.68 ± 0.16 cm; 0.40 ± 0.11 cm, respectively, p<0.000). There was no correlation between epicardial fat thickness and the duration of the disease, rheumatoid factor, C-Reactive protein and erythrocyte sedimentation rate in the patient group (p>0.05). There was no correlation between epicardial fat thickness and age, gender, body mass index, glucose, total cholesterol, triglycerides, high-density lipoprotein, low-density lipoprotein, systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure in the patient group (p>0.05).

Conclusion: The present study showed a significant increase in the EAT thickness in RA patients compared to healthy control subjects, which is an indicator of subclinical atherosclerosis.

Author(s): Erdem Ilgun, Ali Osman Kalkan, Huseyin Ozdil, Mustafa Bilgi, Mehmet Demirayak, Fethi Demir, Hüseyin Katlandur