(RxWiki News) People with rheumatoid arthritis face a higher risk of heart disease. If doctors can identify which patients are most at risk, they can take steps to prevent this potentially deadly complication of rheumatoid arthritis.
Doctors can spot heart defects unique to rheumatoid arthritis patients using speckle-tracking echocardiography - a type of ultrasound that takes images of the heart using sound.
This technology may help doctors spot arthritis-related heart problems sooner, allowing for early treatment.
"Get your heart checked if you have rheumatoid arthritis."
"The challenge that we've had in our studies, and other people have had as well, is identifying patients with rheumatoid arthritis early enough so that we can intervene, before the symptoms become clinically apparent," says Sherine Gabriel, MD, of the Mayo Clinic and senior researcher of the current study.
Dr. Gabriel goes on to say that this ultrasound technology could spot heart defects before rheumatoid arthritis patients suffer a heart attack or heart failure, allowing doctors to treat patients early, "at a time when we can make a difference."
After studying 100 rheumatoid arthritis patients without heart disease and 50 people without arthritis or heart disease, the researchers found that echocardiograms showed heart problems in arthritis patients that healthy patients did not have.
According to Dr. Gabriel, these heart problems had a distinct pattern that doctors could use to spot heart disease before symptoms develop.
Dr. Gabriel says that researchers at Mayo Clinic are currently working to find better ways to predict heart disease in people with rheumatoid arthritis. The researchers are trying to make better risk scores, imaging tests and blood tests that can spot heart disease early.
They are also looking for better imaging techniques, such as the one in this study.
The study was supported by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.
The results were presented at the 2012 Annual Meeting of the European League Against Rheumatism. As such, the study still needs to be reviewed by a peer-reviewed academic journal.