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Keywords:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis;
  • Atherosclerosis;
  • Endothelium;
  • Inflammation;
  • Anti-TNFα antibody;
  • Infliximab

Abstract

Objective

Cardiovascular disease is the major cause of excessive mortality in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Atherosclerosis and RA share similar inflammatory mechanisms that include involvement of tumor necrosis factor α (TNFα). Anti-TNFα antibody improved endothelial function in RA patients after a 12-week treatment. The aim of the present study was to assess whether improvement of endothelial function is still effective in long-term infliximab-treated RA patients.

Methods

Seven RA patients (5 women; age range 25–73 years) were studied. They had been treated with infliximab for at least 1 year and were currently being treated with this drug every 8 weeks. Endothelial-dependent and independent vasodilatation were measured by brachial ultrasonography.

Results

Following infliximab infusion, a rapid increase in the percentage of endothelial-dependent vasodilatation was found in all patients (mean ± SD 9.4 ± 5.5% 2 days postinfusion compared with 2.8 ± 2.5% 2 days before infusion). However, values returned to baseline by 4 weeks after infusion. There were no differences in the percentage of endothelial-independent vasodilatation prior to and after infusion. A decrease in the individual disease activity score for each patient was observed at day 7 postinfusion (P = 0.02).

Conclusion

Our study confirms an active but transient effect of infliximab on endothelial function in RA patients treated periodically with this drug. It may support long-term use of drugs that block TNFα function to reduce the high incidence of cardiovascular complications in RA.