Conference Coverage

Psoriatic arthritis patients have elevated risk for coronary artery plaque




MIAMI – Patients with psoriatic arthritis had a higher prevalence and greater extent of coronary artery plaque in a pilot study comparison with healthy control patients that may point to increased risk independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors.

In the study, coronary artery plaque as assessed by cardiac computed tomography angiography (CCTA) occurred in 39 (78%) of 50 patients with psoriatic arthritis, a significantly higher rate than that observed for healthy controls (11 of 25, 44%).


Investigators not only measured plaque volume, but also assessed the type of plaque: calcified, noncalcified, or mixed. Mixed plaque predominated. This could be important because “noncalcified and mixed carry higher risk for rupture and later cardiovascular events,” Agnes Szentpetery, MD, a research fellow at St. Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin, said at the annual meeting of the Group for Research and Assessment of Psoriasis and Psoriatic Arthritis.

She and her colleagues also found more clinically significant stenosis among the 50 participants with psoriatic arthritis, compared with 25 healthy controls matched for age, sex, smoking status, and presence of metabolic syndrome. “This pilot study is the first to assess coronary plaques in asymptomatic patients with psoriatic arthritis with CCTA,” Dr. Szentpetery said.

Total plaque volume was higher in the psoriatic arthritis group versus controls, and higher in the left main artery for psoriatic arthritis patients, both with and without metabolic syndrome.

The study points to increased risk independent of traditional cardiovascular risk factors. For example, CCTA revealed no difference in plaque volume between patients with and without metabolic disease. In addition, a previous study suggests “the burden of carotid artery plaques is higher in patients with psoriatic arthritis compared to those with psoriasis alone,” Dr. Szentpetery said, citing a cross-sectional study comparing 125 people with psoriasis to 114 others with psoriatic arthritis (Ann Rheum Dis. 2013 May;72[5]:715-20).

Perhaps not surprisingly, inflammation could be driving the association between psoriatic and cardiovascular disease risk. Other investigators suggest chronic, low-grade inflammation leads to atherosclerosis through a maladaptive immune response and altered lipid metabolism, for example (Nat Med. 2011 Nov;17[11]:1410-22).

In the current study, the patients with psoriatic arthritis had well-established disease, occurring for a mean duration of 19 years. Mean age was 58 years, and 54% were men. Approximately 60% were taking disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs, two-thirds were taking biologics, and about one-third were on combination treatment. Controls were similar demographically with a mean age of 57 years, and 52% were men.

Interestingly, Psoriasis Area and Severity Index (PASI) scores did not correlate with increased risk. During discussion after the presentation of the study, a researcher unaffiliated with the study offered an answer. “It could be their skin disease was controlled by the biologics. You had 67% on biologics,” said Nehal Mehta, MD, Clinical Research Scholar in the section of inflammation and cardiometabolic disease at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. “We at the NIH see a strong correlation between PASI and coronary artery disease risk.”

“We know methotrexate and anti-TNF agents can have a protective effect on atherosclerosis, but we did not look at this specifically,” Dr. Szentpetery said. Overall, PASI scores were relatively low in the study population, she added, which “may explain why we did not see the correlation with PASI scores.”

Dr. Szentpetery and Dr. Mehta had no relevant financial disclosures.

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