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Extended report
The effect of disease duration and disease activity on the risk of cardiovascular disease in rheumatoid arthritis patients
  1. Elke E A Arts1,
  2. Jaap Fransen1,
  3. Alfons A den Broeder2,
  4. Calin D Popa1,
  5. Piet L C M van Riel1
  1. 1Department of Rheumatology, Radboud University Medical Centre, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
  2. 2Department of Rheumatology, Sint Maartenskliniek, Nijmegen, The Netherlands
  1. Correspondence to Elke EA Arts, Department of Rheumatology, Radboud University Medical Centre, Geert Grooteplein 8, Nijmegen 6500 HB, The Netherlands; Elke.Arts{at}


Objective Disease duration and disease activity may be associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The objectives of this study were to investigate (1) the relationship between duration of inflammation and the development of CVD in RA patients and (2) the relationship between RA disease activity over time and CVD in patients with RA.

Methods RA patients with a follow-up of ≥6 months in the Nijmegen early RA cohort without prior CVD were included. Disease activity over time was calculated using the time-averaged  28 joint disease activity score (DAS28) for each patient. Kaplan–Meier survival analysis and Cox proportional hazards regression were used for the analyses.

Results During follow-up of the 855 patients that were included, 154 CV events occurred. The course of hazards over time did not indicate a change in the risk of CVD over the course of RA (disease duration), which is also reflected by the absence of a deflection in the survival curves. The survival distributions did not differ between patients with a disease duration of <10 years or >10 years (Log-rank test: p=0.82). Time-averaged DAS28 was significantly associated with CVD (p=0.002) after correction for confounders.

Conclusions Disease duration does not appear to independently affect the risk of CVD. The risk of CVD in RA patients was not increased after 10 years of disease duration compared with the first 10 years. Disease activity over time may contribute to the risk of CVD.

  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Cardiovascular Disease
  • Disease Activity
  • DAS28

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