Rheumatoid arthritis patients have higher prevalence and burden of asymptomatic coronary artery disease assessed by coronary computed tomography: A systematic literature review and meta-analysis

Published:March 01, 2019DOI:


      • Meta-analysis of coronary CT studies linked rheumatoid arthritis with CAD.
      • Rheumatoid arthritis duration, disease activity and treatment affected CAD.
      • Asymptomatic CAD is increased in rheumatoid arthritis.



      Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is associated with increased risk of coronary artery disease (CAD) and studies with coronary computed tomography have suggested increased rates of asymptomatic CAD determined by the coronary calcium score (CCS) in these patients. To synthesize the evidence on this topic, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature.


      A systematic review was performed of data comparing the prevalence and burden of asymptomatic CAD in RA and controls using CCS with or without coronary computed tomographic angiography (CCTA). For the meta-analysis, pooled data provided the estimated risk ratio (RR) of CAD and weighted mean differences of CCS in patients with RA compared to controls.


      The search revealed 1841 results of which 1083 were screened and 26 full text papers were evaluated. Eight studies were included with data on 788 patients with RA and 1641 controls. Patients with RA had significantly increased risk of CAD (RR = 1.26 [95% CI 1.04–1.52]; p = .021) and increased weighted mean differences for CCS (48.25 [95% CI 26.97–69.53]; p < .001) compared to controls. Limited evidence suggested that patients with RA had a higher prevalence of moderate-severe (CCS > 100) CAD and more multivessel CAD, and RA duration and disease activity were associated with higher CCS, RA disease activity was linked with presence of high risk (non-calcified or mixed) coronary plaques, and treatment with methotrexate was tied to absence of CAD, respectively.


      In patients with RA, asymptomatic CAD is more prevalent, with higher mean CCS, more multivessel disease, and more high-risk plaques compared to controls.


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