(RxWiki News) Inflammatory bowel diseases are serious conditions on their own. But they also can lead to life-threatening complications that may extend to organs beyond the digestive system — even to the heart.
A recent study found that patients with inflammatory bowel disease (the chronic inflammation of the digestive tract) were at increased risk of being hospitalized for heart failure, especially during periods in which disease activity flares up.
The researchers concluded that patients with inflammatory bowel disease should be assessed for heart problems so that heart failure and other heart-related complications can be detected early.
"Talk to a cardiologist if you have inflammatory bowel disease."
The lead author of this study was Søren L. Kristensen, PhD, from the Department of Cardiology of Gentofte Hospital at the Copenhagen University Hospital in Hellerup, Denmark.
The study included 5,436,647 Danish citizens aged 18 years and older with no history of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or heart failure.
The participants were followed from January 1, 1997 until first hospitalization for heart failure, death or December 31, 2011.
During this time, 23,681 participants developed IBD.
These new cases were monitored throughout the study, with the researchers documenting the participants’ disease activity.
Flares-ups of IBD were defined as being hospitalized or prescribed medication after a period of disease inactivity. Persistent activity meant that the participant was repeatedly being hospitalized or prescribed medication.
The researchers conducted follow-up for an average of 12 years with the general citizen group (the reference group) and for six years with the IBD group.
Over the course of the study, 553 participants from the IBD group and 171,405 from the reference group were hospitalized for heart failure.
The rate of heart failure in the IBD group was 3.68 cases per 1,000 person-years (number of participants multiplied by number of years followed in study).
In the reference group, the rate of heart failure was 2.69 cases per 1,000 person-years.
The researchers determined that the participants with IBD were 37 percent more likely to be hospitalized for heart failure compared to the reference group.
When participants in the IBD group had flares-ups of their condition, their risk of hospitalization for heart failure increased by 2.54 times.
During periods of persistent activity, the IBD patients’ risk of hospitalization for heart failure increased by 2.73 times.
The risk of hospitalization for heart failure in the IBD group was not affected during periods of disease inactivity.
Dr. Kristensen suggested that treatment to reduce the length and number of IBD episodes may help lower the risk of heart failure.
Previous studies have shown that IBD can affect the body beyond intestinal complications. Blood, muscles, bones, skin, liver and eye-related complications are common.
"Our results indicate that heart failure may need to be added to this list, and hence be considered when assessing these patients,” Dr. Kristensen said in a press statement. “Detecting heart failure early is crucial to halting its progression and improving prognosis."
This study was presented on May 18 at the Heart Failure Congress 2014—the main annual meeting of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology.