Special echocardiograms show promise for early identification of a potentially deadly complication in rheumatoid arthritis: heart disease, Mayo Clinic research shows. The findings were being presented at The European League Against Rheumatism annual meeting in Berlin. Rheumatoid arthritis patients are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease and it’s important to take action to intervene. However, the risk assessment tools physicians commonly use often underestimate the danger.
Myocardial strain imaging using a particular type of ultrasound called speckle-tracking echocardiography can detect early abnormalities in heart function unique to rheumatoid arthritis patients, and may be an effective means to screen them for cardiovascular disease, the Mayo study found.
In rheumatic arthritis, the immune system attacks tissue, inflaming joints and sometimes affecting other organs. A recently published Mayo Clinic study found that two commonly used heart disease risk assessment tools– the Framingham and Reynolds risk scores– often underestimate the danger faced by rheumatoid arthritis patients.
Researchers used records from the National Institutes of Health-funded Rochester Epidemiology Project, whose resources make Olmsted County, Minn., one of the very few places worldwide where researchers can examine medical data on virtually everyone in a defined geographic area to search for the true frequency of particular conditions and the success of treatments.