Glucocorticoids and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events in polymyalgia rheumatica

Authors


Abstract

Objective

To examine the effect of glucocorticoid use on the risk of various cardiovascular diseases in patients with polymyalgia rheumatica (PMR).

Methods

We assembled a population-based incidence cohort of 364 patients with PMR first diagnosed between January 1, 1970 and December 31, 1999. Inclusion criteria were age ≥50 years, bilateral aching and morning stiffness involving at least 2 areas (neck, shoulders, hips, or proximal aspects of the thighs), and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) ≥40 mm/hour. In patients who fulfilled the first 2 criteria but had a normal ESR, a rapid response to low-dose glucocorticoids served as the third criterion. Patients were followed up until death or December 31, 2004. Cox models with time-dependent covariates were used to examine the association between glucocorticoid exposure and risk of myocardial infarction, heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, and cerebrovascular disease.

Results

A total of 364 PMR patients (mean age 73 years, 67% women) were followed for a median of 7.6 years. During the disease course, 310 (85%) patients received glucocorticoids. After adjusting for age, calendar year, and ESR, patients who received glucocorticoids did not have a significantly higher risk for myocardial infarction, heart failure, peripheral vascular disease, or cerebrovascular disease (hazard ratio [95% confidence interval] 0.58 [0.29–1.18], 0.85 [0.45–1.54], 0.58 [0.24–1.40], and 0.65 [0.33–1.26], respectively) compared with those who did not receive glucocorticoids. In fact, a trend for a protective effect was seen. No significant association was observed between cumulative glucocorticoid dose and any of the outcomes (P = 0.39).

Conclusion

In patients with PMR, treatment with glucocorticoids is not associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular diseases.

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