Rheumatologic diseases are characterised by loss of immune tolerance, resulting in systemic inflammation. Inflammation and scarring of the endocardium, which lines the inner surface of the heart chambers and valves, can result in valvular thickening and dysfunction. Estimates of prevalence vary depending on the sensitivity of the screening methodology used and range from 30%–50% in systemic lupus and rheumatoid arthritis to 10%–30% in ankylosing spondylitis. Progression of valve disease is a slow process but can result in haemodynamically significant complications. Thromboembolic complications such as cerebrovascular occlusions pose a serious risk of morbidity. The presence of antiphospholipid antibodies increases the risk of valvular disease and thrombotic complications. Anticoagulation is recommended in the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies, but the guidance on the role of immunosuppressive therapy to treat valvular disease is lacking. Surgical valve therapy may be considered in severe disease, but there is increased risk in patients with an autoimmune disease which includes a higher risk of infection, thromboembolic and bleeding complications, as well as cardiovascular events in the setting of premature atherosclerotic heart disease. Therefore, management should be provided in a multidisciplinary team that includes a rheumatologist, a cardiologist and a cardiothoracic surgeon; medical therapy should be optimised before considering a high-risk valve surgery.
- Heart Valve Diseases
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Correction notice This article has been corrected since it was first published to add the middle initial to author Elana J Bernstein.
Contributors The authors' contribution to the paper as follows: review conception and design: YG, NB, MSJ, AA, EJB. Draft manuscript preparation: YG. All authors reviewed the results and approved the final version of the manuscript.
Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.
Competing interests None declared.
Provenance and peer review Commissioned; externally peer reviewed.