ATLANTA – Black race was the single greatest predictor of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events in systemic lupus erythematosus, with black patients having an 18-fold higher risk than white patients from 2 years before to 8 years after diagnosis, according to a of 336 patients in the Georgia Lupus Registry that was presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology.
The greatest risk was in the first 2 years after diagnosis, which has been reported before in white patients, but not before in a mostly (75%) black cohort.
Lupus is known to strike earlier and be more aggressive in black patients, so “we were expecting racial disparities in incident CVD, but” the magnitude of the increased risk “was very surprising. This study [identifies] a population that needs more attention, more targeted CVD prevention. We have to intervene early and be on top of everything,” especially for black patients, said lead investigator, an assistant professor of rheumatology at the University of Wisconsin–Madison.
Lipids, blood pressure, and the other usual CVD risk factors, as well as lupus itself, have to be optimally controlled; glucocorticoid use limited as much as possible; and there needs to be improved adherence to hydroxychloroquine, which has been shown to reduce CVD events in lupus patients, she said in an interview.
The 336 patients, mostly women (87%) from the Atlanta area, were diagnosed during 2002-2004 at a mean age of 40 years. Dr. Garg and associates reviewed CVD events – ischemic heart disease, stroke, transient ischemic attack, and peripheral vascular disease – and death over 16 years, beginning 2 years before diagnosis.
About 22% of subjects had a CVD event, most commonly within 2 years after diagnosis. The risk was 500% higher in black patients overall (adjusted hazard ratio, 6.4; 95% confidence interval, 2.4-17.5; P = .0003), and markedly higher in the first 10 years (aHR, 18; 95% CI, 2.2-141; P less than .0001). The findings were not adjusted for socioeconomic factors.
In the first 12 years of the study, the mean age at lupus diagnosis was 46 years and the first CVD event occurred at an average of 48 years. From 12 to 16 years follow-up, the mean age of diagnosis was 38 years, and the first CVD event occurred at 52 years.
Age older than 65 years (aHR, 7.9; 95% CI, 2.2-29) and the presence of disease-associated antibodies (aHR, 2.1; 95% CI, 1.01-4.4) increased CVD risk, which wasn’t surprising, but another predictor – discoid lupus – was unexpected (aHR, 3.2; 95% CI, 1.5-6.8). “A lot of times, we’ve considered discoid rash to be a milder form, but these patients have some kind of chronic, smoldering inflammation that is leading to atherosclerosis,” Dr. Garg said.
At diagnosis, 84% of the subjects had lupus hematologic disorders, 69% immunologic disorders, and 14% a discoid rash. CVD risk factor data were not collected.
There was no external funding, and the investigators reported no disclosures.
SOURCE: Garg S et al. Arthritis Rheumatol. 2019;71(suppl 10), Abstract