Blocked Blood Vessels in RA

Rheumatoid arthritis patients may have increased risk of pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis

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

(RxWiki News) If you have rheumatoid arthritis, you may be at risk of health problems throughout your body. Even if you've never been hospitalized, you and your doctor need to closely watch for signs of complications.

People with rheumatoid arthritis had a higher risk of blocked blood vessels compared to people without rheumatoid arthritis, according to results from a recent study.

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

Previous studies have suggested that rheumatoid arthritis patients are six times more likely to have pulmonary embolism (blockage of the main artery of the lung) than people without arthritis, said Professor Hyon K. Choi, MD, DrPH, of Boston University School of Medicine, and colleagues.

With these past findings in mind, Dr. Choi and colleagues set out to better understand the risk of pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis (blood clot in a deep vein) in people with rheumatoid arthritis.

They found that people with rheumatoid arthritis were 2.23 times more likely than those without arthritis to develop pulmonary embolism.

In addition, people with rheumatoid arthritis were 2.20 times more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis compared to those without arthritis.

The researchers also looked at patients' risk of developing these conditions within a certain amount of time.

Compared to those without arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis patients were:

  • 3.27 times more likely to develop pulmonary embolism within 1 year
  • 1.88 times more likely to develop pulmonary embolism between 1 and 4.9 years
  • 2.35 times more likely to develop pulmonary embolism after 5 years or more
  • 3.16 times more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis within 1 year
  • 1.82 times more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis between 1 and 4.9 years
  • 2.32 times more likely to develop deep vein thrombosis after 5 years or more

The authors concluded that their study shows people with rheumatoid arthritis have a heightened risk of pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis.

These findings suggest that doctors should watch closely for blood vessel problems and other risks of rheumatoid arthritis, whether or not patients have been hospitalized in the past.

The study included 9,589 people with rheumatoid arthritis. Of these, 82 developed pulmonary embolism and 110 developed deep vein thrombosis.

The research was published August 28 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
August 30, 2012
Last Updated:
September 3, 2012