Rheumatoid Illness, Smoking Can Harm Heart's Aorta

TUESDAY, May 29 (HealthDay News) -- Inflammatory rheumatic diseases and smoking are both associated with inflammation of the heart's aorta, the main artery carrying blood to the body, researchers report.

In turn, aortic inflammation can promote atherosclerosis ("hardening of the arteries") and the formation of aneurysms and increase risks for heart attack and death, according to a study in the June issue of the journal Arthritis & Rheumatism.

In the study, American and Norwegian researchers analyzed samples of aortic tissue from 66 coronary artery bypass patients with inflammatory rheumatic disease and a control group of 51 bypass patients without the condition.

Rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis, and polymyalgia were among the types of inflammatory rheumatic diseases afflicting the patients in the study.

The researchers found that patients with inflammatory rheumatic disease were more likely than patients in the control group to have inflammation-related cells in their aortic tissue. Patients who smoked were also more likely to have these kinds of cells.

"The opportunities for detecting aortic inflammation are limited," study spokesperson Dr. Ivana Hollan said in a prepared statement. "Our method of tissue examination allows the condition to be diagnosed in patients undergoing CABG surgery without increasing the preoperative risk."

The findings indicate the need for further research into an inflammatory process that may increase the risk of dying from a heart attack or aneurysm, the researchers said.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Arthritis & Rheumatism, news release, May 25, 2007

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