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Ultrasound Spots Heart Disease in RA Patients

Ultrasound Spots Heart Disease in RA Patients

A specific type of ultrasound called speckle-tracking echocardiography may detect heart disease complications from rheumatoid arthritis, according to a study presented this week at The European League Against Rheumatism annual meeting in Berlin, Germany.

Patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) are at higher risk of cardiovascular disease that cause heart attacks and heart failure, but commonly used assessment tools are not detecting the risk often enough, researchers said.

To determine if there was a more reliable way to detect this problem, researchers from the Mayo Clinic studied 150 people, 100 patients who had RA and no known cardiovascular disease and 50 people with no history of RA or cardiovascular disease. All underwent echocardiograms that looked for myocardial strain, or speckle-tracking echocardiography.

The researchers found that patients with RA showed signs of cardiac impairment that was not seen among people without RA. Senior researcher, Sherine Gabriel, MD, said that the impairment seen in the images from the RA patients showed a unique pattern that could be used to indicate heart disease before patients have clinical signs.

“It’s potentially part of the answer,” said Gabriel. “Our research team here at Mayo is working to identify better ways to predict heart disease in persons with rheumatoid arthritis, including developing better risk scores, imaging tests and perhaps better blood tests. We’re also evaluating a number of immunological blood tests that could help us identify patients earlier, and exploring better imaging approaches like myocardial strain that can help us identify patients with RA who have heart problems as early as possible.”

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