OBJECTIVE: It has been frequently stated that rheumatoid cachexia (RC) associates with increased cardiovascular risk; however, no studies to date have investigated this. The aim of this study was to investigate the association of RC with multiple novel and classical cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk factors and the presence of established CVD in rheumatoid arthritis (RA).
METHODS: A total of 34 RA patients with RC (RA+RC) were identified from a database of 400 RA patients using published RC criteria and compared to the remaining patients (RA-RC) who did not fulfil RC criteria. All patients were assessed for fat and fat-free mass, albumin (indicator of catabolism), disease activity/severity, novel and classical risk CVD factors and established CVD.
RESULTS: Fat-free mass (kg) and albumin (g/L) were significantly decreased in RA+RC vs. RA-RC patients: 37.3(33.9-41.6) vs. 45.9(41.2-55.5), p<0.001 and 39.6 + or - 6.7 vs. 42.4 + or - 4.9, p=0.001). Percent body fat was not significantly different. No significant differences were detected in either the classical or novel CVD risk factors, 10-year CVD risk or the prevalence of established CVD.
CONCLUSIONS: RC does not appear to be associated with worse CVD profile in RA patients, but this needs to be confirmed in prospective studies.