The prevalence and extent of vascular calcification over the thoracic aorta and coronary and carotid arteries are greater in patients with systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE) than in healthy persons. Because the process of atherosclerosis related to SLE disease activity is diffuse and widespread rather than limited to the coronary arteries, coronary calcification used alone as a marker for atherosclerosis may not disclose the association.
Yiu and associates used multidetector CT to compare the prevalence and pattern of subclinical calcified plaque in persons with SLE versus controls. None of the 100 study participants had a history of cardiovascular disease.
Patients with SLE had the highest mean coronary, carotid, aortic, and total calcification scores (CS). They were significantly more likely than controls to have a CS higher than 0 in coronary and carotid arteries, the aorta, and any vascular bed. Calcification was most pronounced in the coronary arteries, followed by the carotid and aortic arteries. Only the patients with SLE had simultaneous calcification over the thoracic aorta and coronary and carotid arteries.
The authors noted that their findings have important implications for the understanding of the premature atherogenesis process and provide a cornerstone for future studies.