Twenty four patients with ankylosing spondylitis of 10 or more years' duration were assessed for evidence of cardiac disease. Seven patients (29%) had evidence of cardiac disease, including one patient with a pericardial effusion, three with conduction abnormalities, and two with aortic incompetence. Aortic incompetence in one patient was clinically silent and was detected only with Doppler echocardiography. This patient had, in addition, thickening of the posterior aortic wall, an echocardiographic feature not previously described in ankylosing spondylitis. There was no evidence of aortic valve disease in a control group matched for age and sex. Patients with ankylosing spondylitis and cardiac abnormalities were older, had a longer disease duration, and more peripheral joint disease than those without cardiac abnormalities. Doppler echocardiography is a useful technique in the assessment of cardiac disease in ankylosing spondylitis and may detect aortic valve disease at an early preclinical stage.
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