Blood Clot Risk in RA

Rheumatoid arthritis patients may face higher risk of venous thromboembolism

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Rheumatoid arthritis is a condition that affects more than just your joints. It can spread throughout your body, even causing problems in the vessels that carry blood.

In a recent Swedish study, people with rheumatoid arthritis had an increased risk of forming blood clots within a vein - a condition known as venous thromboembolism.

"See your doctor regularly if you have rheumatoid arthritis."

Marie E. Holmqvist, MD, PhD, of the Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, and colleagues also found that the heightened risk of venous thromboembolism lasted for as long as 10 years after being diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis.

According to background information of the study, other studies have suggested that rheumatoid arthritis boosts the risk of these blood clots, especially when patients are hospitalized. So, Dr. Holmqvist and colleagues looked at hospitalization data to better understand the relationship between rheumatoid arthritis and venous thromboembolism.

They found that patients with prevalent rheumatoid arthritis had a 2 percent greater risk of venous thromboembolism compared to people without rheumatoid arthritis. While the rate of venous thromboembolism was 2.8 per 1,000 person-years among those without arthritis, the rate was 5.9 per 1,000 person-years among those with arthritis.

Even though results showed rates of venous thromboembolism were higher after hospitalization, rates were not higher among arthritis patients than among those without arthritis.

"The results of this study suggest that patients with rheumatoid arthritis are at increased risk of venous thromboembolism (both deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism) and the the risk of venous thromboembolism increases shortly after rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis and remains similarly elevated during the first decade," the authors said.

The authors added that hospitalization is a strong risk factor for venous thromboembolism in patients with or without rheumatoid arthritis.

The research included more than 45,000 people with rheumatoid arthritis.

The study was published October 3 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

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Review Date: 
October 4, 2012
Last Updated:
October 5, 2012