Lupus Patients Should Have Their Heart Valves Checked, Researchers Say

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by Magdalena Kegel |

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Lupus heart and heart disease

Lupus patients should be checked for heart-valve abnormalities because the disease increases the risk of the heart condition, according to a study.

Earlier research identified anti-phospholipid antibodies as a risk factor for this heart condition. The new study shows that systemic lupus erythematosus poses a risk in patients without the antibodies.

The research, The association between systemic lupus erythematosus and valvular heart disease: an extensive data analysis,” was published in the European Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Researchers at Sheba Medical Center and Tel-Aviv University in Israel gathered data from nationwide health databases. They looked at 5,018 lupus patients and 25,090 controls matched to patients by age and sex.

The group had an average age of 51.2 years, and 82 percent were women.

The database contained information from medical, pharmaceutical, and healthcare administrative systems. Researchers extracted data on diagnoses, examinations and laboratory findings.

More patients than controls were smokers, had high blood pressure, and elevated blood fats, the team discovered. Anti-phospholipid antibodies were found in 19.5 percent of patients and only 0.28 percent of controls.

Interestingly, lupus patients were somewhat more likely to have a high socioeconomic status.

The team homed in on four conditions that affect the aortic and mitral heart valves: aortic valve stenosis, aortic insufficiency, mitral stenosis, and mitral regurgitation.

Heart valves are flaps that prevent blood from running in the wrong direction when it moves through the heart. Stenosis involves a valve becoming narrow, restricting blood flow. With aortic insufficiency or mitral regurgitation, a valve can start leaking, allowing blood to flow backward.

Lupus patients were more likely than controls to have all four heart conditions. Those with lupus were nearly 2 1/2 times more likely than controls to have valvular heart disease, researchers found.

Male patients, those with high blood pressure or high blood fats, and those with anti-phospholipid antibodies were also at higher risk of having diseased heart valves. Lupus was linked to heart-value problems whether or not a patient had anti-phospholipid antibodies, however.

“In conclusion, our study supports the high proportion of VHD [valvular heart disease] among SLE [systemic lupus erythematosus] patients,” the team wrote. “Moreover, the study highlights that SLE patients are prone to have VHD regardless of their aPL [anti-phospholipid antibodies] status and vice versa. Future studies should address the role of aPLs as a biomarker for cardiovascular diseases among the general population, and screening tests such as echocardiography are recommended in all SLE/aPLs patients.”