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Increased disease activity is associated with a deteriorated lipid profile in patients with ankylosing spondylitis
  1. V P van Halm1,2,
  2. J C van Denderen2,
  3. M J L Peters1,
  4. J W R Twisk3,
  5. M van der Paardt1,2,
  6. I E van der Horst-Bruinsma1,
  7. R J van de Stadt2,
  8. M H M T de Koning1,2,
  9. B A C Dijkmans1,2,
  10. M T Nurmohamed1,2
  1. 1Department of Rheumatology, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  2. 2Department of Rheumatology, Jan van Breemen Institute Amsterdam, Amsterdam
  3. 3Department of Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, VU University Medical Centre
  1. Correspondence to:
    M T Nurmohamed
    Department of Internal Medicine, VU University Medical Centre, PO Box 7057, 1007 MB Amsterdam, The Netherlands; mt.nurmohamed{at}


Background: Cardiovascular mortality is increased in patients with ankylosing spondylitis. A possible explanation might be a more prevalent atherogenic lipid profile in patients with ankylosing spondylitis than in the general population. It has been postulated that inflammation deteriorates the lipid profile, thereby increasing cardiovascular risk.

Objective: To explore the association between disease activity and lipid profile in patients with ankylosing spondylitis.

Methods: Disease activity parameters for ankylosing spondylitis and lipid levels (total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDLc) and triglycerides) were measured in 45 patients with ankylosing spondylitis for 6 months after starting treatment with leflunomide or placebo. Findings in this treatment group were compared with those in 10 patients with ankylosing spondylitis treated with etanercept. A specialised regression model, adjusting for repeated measurements, age and sex, was used to assess the influence of the disease activity variables on the lipid levels.

Results: Multilevel regression analyses showed significant associations between disease activity parameters and lipid levels—for instance, an increase of 30 mm at the end of the first hour in erythrocyte sedimentation rate was associated with a decrease of about 6% in total cholesterol level and a decrease of about 11% in HDLc levels. Similar significant associations were found between other disease activity parameters and lipid levels.

Conclusion: Increase in disease activity was associated with decreases in lipid levels. The decrease in HDLc levels tended to be almost twice as large as the decrease in total cholesterol levels, resulting in a more atherogenic lipid profile. Hence, effective treatment of disease activity in patients with ankylosing spondylitis may lower the cardiovascular risk by improving the lipid profile.

  • BASDAI, Bath Ankylosing Spondylitis Disease Activity Index
  • CRP, C reactive protein
  • CVD, cardiovascular disease
  • ESR, erythrocyte sedimentation rate
  • HDLc, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol

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