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High-sensitivity cardiac troponin I is a biomarker for occult coronary plaque burden and cardiovascular events in patients with rheumatoid arthritis


Patients with RA display greater occult coronary atherosclerosis burden and experience higher cardiovascular morbidity and mortality compared with controls. We here explored whether pro-inflammatory cytokines and high-sensitivity cardiac troponin I (hs-cTnI), a biomarker of myocardial injury, correlated with plaque burden and cardiovascular events (CVEs) in RA.We evaluated 150 patients with 64-slice coronary CT angiography. Coronary artery calcium, number of segments with plaque (segment involvement score), stenotic severity and plaque burden were assessed. Lesions were described as non-calcified, mixed or fully calcified. Blood levels of hs-cTnI and pro-inflammatory cytokines were assessed during coronary CT angiography. Subjects were followed over 60 (s.d. 26) months for both ischaemic [cardiac death, non-fatal myocardial infarction (MI), stroke, peripheral arterial ischaemia] and non-ischaemic (new-onset heart failure hospitalization) CVEs.Plasma hs-cTnI correlated with all coronary plaque outcomes (P < 0.01). Elevated hs-cTnI (⩾1.5 pg/ml) further associated with significant calcification, extensive atherosclerosis, obstructive plaque and any advanced mixed or calcified plaques after adjustments for cardiac risk factors or Framingham D'Agostino scores (all P < 0.05). Eleven patients suffered a CVE (1.54/100 patient-years), eight ischaemic and three non-ischaemic. Elevated hs-cTnI predicted all CVE risk independent of demographics, cardiac risk factors and prednisone use (P = 0.03). Conversely, low hs-cTnI presaged a lower risk for both extensive atherosclerosis (P < 0.05) and incident CVEs (P = 0.037).Plasma hs-cTnI independently associated with occult coronary plaque burden, composition and long-term incident CVEs in patients with RA. Low hs-cTnI forecasted a lower risk for both extensive atherosclerosis as well as CVEs. hs-cTnI may therefore optimize cardiovascular risk stratification in RA.

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