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Lower limb arterial incompressibility and obstruction in rheumatoid arthritis
  1. I del Rincón,
  2. R W Haas,
  3. S Pogosian,
  4. A Escalante
  1. Division of Clinical Immunology and Rheumatology, Department of Medicine and the Frederic C Bartter General Clinical Research Center, University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr I del Rincón
    The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio, 7703 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio, Texas 78229, USA;


Background: Despite increased cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in rheumatoid arthritis, the peripheral arteries remain understudied.

Objective: To examine the lower limb arteries in age and sex matched, non-smoking subjects with and without rheumatoid arthritis.

Methods: The ankle-brachial index (ABI) was measured at the posterior tibial and dorsal pedal arteries. Arteries were classified as obstructed with ABI ⩽0.9, normal with ABI >0.9 but ⩽1.3, and incompressible with ABI >1.3. Multinomial logistic regression was used to estimate differences in ABI between patients and controls, adjusting for cardiovascular risk factors, rheumatoid arthritis manifestations, inflammation markers, and glucocorticoid dose.

Results: 234 patients with rheumatoid arthritis and 102 controls were studied. Among the rheumatoid patients, 66 of 931 arteries (7%) were incompressible and 30 (3%) were obstructed. Among the controls, three of 408 arteries (0.7%) were incompressible (p = 0.002) and four (1%) were obstructed (p = 0.06). At the person level, one or more abnormal arteries occurred among 45 rheumatoid patients (19%), v five controls (5%, p = 0.001). The greater frequency of arterial incompressibility and obstruction in rheumatoid arthritis was independent of age, sex, and cardiovascular risk factors. Adjustment for inflammation markers, joint damage, rheumatoid factor, and glucocorticoid use reduced rheumatoid arthritis v control differences. Most arterial impairments occurred in rheumatoid patients with 20 or more deformed joints. This subgroup had more incompressible (15%, p⩽0.001) and obstructed arteries (6%, p = 0.005) than the controls, independent of covariates.

Conclusions: Peripheral arterial incompressibility and obstruction are increased in rheumatoid arthritis. Their propensity for patients with advanced joint damage suggests shared pathogenic mechanisms.

  • ABI, ankle-brachial index
  • BMI, body mass index
  • ORALE, outcome of rheumatoid arthritis longitudinal evaluation
  • rheumatoid arthritis
  • atherosclerosis
  • peripheral vascular disease
  • ankle-brachial index

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  • We thank Dr Michael P Stern, for his advise and mentoring; Dr Gregorio Navarro-Cano for help conducting the ORALE study; and Drs Ramón Arroyo, Dan Battafarano, Rita Cuevas, Michael Fischbach, John Huff, Alex de Jesus, Rodolfo Molina, Matthew Mosbacker, Fred Murphy, Carlos Orces, Christopher Parker, Thomas Rennie, Jon Russell, Joel Rutstein, and James Wild for giving us permission to study their patients. This research was supported by an arthritis investigator award and a clinical science grant from the Arthritis Foundation; and NIH grants RO1-HD37151, K23-HL004481, K24-AR47530, and grant M01-RR01346 for the Frederic C Bartter General Clinical Research Center.