Cardiovascular morbidity in rheumatoid arthritis patients in North Canterbury, New Zealand 1999–2008


Correspondence: Dr Peter Chapman, FRACP, MD, Department of Rheumatology, Immunology and Allergy, Canterbury District Health Board, Private Bag 4710, Christchurch 8011, New Zealand.




Cardiovascular disease is a substantial contributor to increased morbidity and mortality in rheumatoid arthritis (RA). The aim of this audit was to determine the rate of cardiovascular events in a cohort of newly diagnosed RA patients.


The inpatient clinical database from Christchurch Hospital, Christchurch, New Zealand, was searched using the International Classification of Diseases 9th Revision (ICD9) and 10 codes representing RA and cardiovascular disease between 1 January 1999 and 31 December 2008. Notes were reviewed with additional demographic and medication data sought. Outpatient data for RA patients was collated from the Rheumatology Department's letter database.


Four hundred and six patients were identified with combined ICD9 or 10 codes for RA and ischemic heart disease, of whom 194 had a confirmed myocardial event. Of these, 34 were diagnosed with RA between January 1999 and December 2008 prior to their myocardial event. Kaplan–Meier analysis showed risk of a cardiovascular event at 1 and 10 years was 0.64% and 9.4%, respectively. There were 26 confirmed deaths in the study period. The risk of death at 1 and 10 years was 0.48% and 8.16%, respectively.


We have shown a relatively low prevalence of cardiovascular events in this RA population diagnosed within a 10 year period. This is consistent with other reports and likely reflects the short follow-up period. Prospective longer-term studies will be required to further investigate the relative contribution of disease activity and other parameters to cardiovascular events in patients with early RA.