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Systemic disease and the heart
Disease chronicity and activity predict subclinical left ventricular systolic dysfunction in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus


Objective: This study investigates parameters that could predict subclinical cardiac dysfunction in systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) in the absence of valvular, clinical coronary artery and pericardial disease.

Design: A case-control trial.

Setting: Rheumatology clinic, a university teaching hospital.

Patients: Eighty-two female SLE patients (49 (SD 9) years) and 82 female normal subjects (49 (13) years) matched for age, body mass index, blood pressure and heart rate.

Interventions: All underwent standard echocardiography and tissue Doppler imaging.

Main outcome measures: Twenty-two (27%) patients had evidence of impaired left ventricular (LV) long-axis function with mean myocardial peak systolic velocity (Sm) of basal six segments <4.4 cm/s and also subnormal stress-corrected midwall fractional shortening. Thirty-four (42%) patients demonstrated impaired right ventricular (RV) long-axis function. These occurred in the presence of comparable normal LV ejection fraction, cardiac index, and RV fractional area change to the control group. Patients with subnormal mean Sm were older (49 (8) vs 44 (9); p = 0.043) and had a higher prevalence of hypertension (46% vs 22%; p = 0.034), longer disease duration >10 years (82% vs 50%, p = 0.01), higher disease activity score (73% vs 48% for Systemic Lupus Erythematosus Disease Activity Index (SLEDAI)⩾1, p = 0.049) and end-organ damage index (64% vs 47% with Systemic Lupus International Collaborating Clinics Damage Index (SLICC)⩾1, p = 0.049) than those with normal values. Disease duration >10 years, disease activity index and increased arterial stiffness provided additional incremental predictive value of LV long-axis function.

Conclusion: SLE patients have subclinical long and short-axis dysfunctions. Regular monitoring of cardiac function by tissue Doppler echocardiography may be indicated for patients who had SLE for >10 years, frequent flare or when arterial stiffening is demonstrated.

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