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Excess atherosclerosis in systemic lupus erythematosus A matter of renal involvement: Case control study of 281 SLE patients and 281 individually matched population controls
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2017 (English)In: PLoS ONE, ISSN 1932-6203, E-ISSN 1932-6203, Vol. 12, no 4, article id e0174572Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

BACKGROUND: Systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), is a heterogeneous disease which predominantly affects young females (90%). SLE is associated with a shorter life expectancy than in the general population. Standardized mortality ratios (SMR) of 2.4 have been reported, which is comparable to diabetes. In modern societies cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the major cause of premature mortality. Accelerated atherosclerosis is generally assumed to be the underlying cause for SLE related CVD. However, previous studies diverge regarding whether atherosclerosis is more common in SLE than in controls. With this in mind and based on own clinical experience we hypothesized that accelerated atherosclerosis is not a general feature of SLE, but prevails in SLE subgroups.

METHODS: 281 SLE patients and 281 individually age and sex matched population controls, were investigated clinically. Fasting blood samples and risk factor data were collected. All participants were subject to B-mode ultrasonography of the carotid arteries. Carotid plaque occurrence and mean intima media thickness (mIMT) were recorded. Two SLE subgroups previously described to be at high CVD risk; 1) patients with nephritis and 2) patients with anti-phospholipid antibodies (aPL), and one subgroup reported to be at comparatively lower CVD risk; patients positive for Sjögren´s syndrome antigens A/B (SSA/SSB) antibodies were analyzed separately in comparison with their respective matched controls.

RESULTS: Median age was 49 (IQR 36-59) years, 93% were females. Manifest CVD; ischemic heart, cerebro- and peripheral vascular disease, prevailed in patients (12% vs. 1%, p<0.0001). Overall plaque prevalence did not differ (20% vs. 16%), but patients had slightly higher mIMT than controls (0.56 vs. 0.53 mm, p<0.0033). After age adjustment plaques, but not mIMT, remained associated with previous CVD events. Therefore we focused further analyses on plaques, a more robust measure of atherosclerosis. Patients with nephritis (40%), but neither aPL (25%) nor SSA/SSB (40%) positive patients, had more plaques than their respective controls (23% vs. 11%, p = 0.008). Notably, patients with nephritis were younger than other SLE patients (45 vs.49 years, p = 0.02). To overcome the confounding effect of age we performed an age-matched nested case-control analysis, which demonstrated that patients with nephritis had twice as often plaques (23%) as both non-nephritis patients (11%, p = 0.038) and controls (12%, p = 0.035).

CONCLUSIONS: In SLE excess carotid plaques are essentially confined to the SLE subgroup with nephritis. This subgroup had plaques twice as often as age-matched non-nephritis SLE patients and population controls. Non-nephritis SLE patients, including the aPL positive subgroup, which has a high CVD risk, had similar prevalence of plaques as controls. To prevent later CVD events, this novel observation calls for risk factor screening and initiation of anti-atherosclerotic treatment selectively in SLE nephritis patients. Preferably at nephritis onset, which is often at a young age. In a general perspective this study demonstrates the importance to perform careful clinical subgroup analyses when investigating heterogeneous, hitherto not clearly defined, conditions like SLE.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2017. Vol. 12, no 4, article id e0174572
National Category
Rheumatology and Autoimmunity
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URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-320304DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0174572ISI: 000399874800004PubMedID: 28414714OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-320304DiVA, id: diva2:1089181
Available from: 2017-04-18 Created: 2017-04-18 Last updated: 2017-11-29Bibliographically approved

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