Rheumatoid arthritis patients at heightened risk for life-threatening blood clot

January 12, 2021 (Vancouver) – A new Arthritis Research Canada study reveals rheumatoid arthritis patients have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease after diagnosis compared to the general population.

Researchers specifically looked at the risk of venous thromboembolism (VTE) – a blood clot that starts in a vein and can travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism or PE) and deep vein thrombosis (DVT) – a blood clot in the leg veins.

“These are serious cardiovascular events associated with increased mortality,” said Dr. Antonio Aviña-Zubieta, a rheumatologist and senior scientist of rheumatology at Arthritis Research Canada.

Venous thromboembolism (which includes pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis), represents a relatively common cardiovascular event that is associated with increased mortality and affects more than one in 1000 persons each year in the Western population.

The study found that VTE risk was the highest during the first year after RA diagnosis, then progressively declined but remained statistically significant even five years after diagnosis.

“These findings have important implications for clinical care, both immediately after a rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis and in long-term treatment as treating inflammation decreases the risk,” Aviña-Zubieta said. “Clinicians should be aware that RA causes patients to have a higher risk not only of heart attacks and strokes, but also VTE, particularly in the period soon after diagnosis.”

Rheumatoid arthritis is the most common form of autoimmune arthritis. It is a serious disease that occurs when the immune system mistakenly attacks healthy cells in the body. Inflammation caused by RA can damage joints and many other parts of the body. Approximately 374,000 Canadians over the age of 16 live with rheumatoid arthritis.

To read the full research paper, please click here.


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Arthritis Research Canada is the largest clinical arthritis research institution in North America. Our mission is to transform the lives of people living with arthritis through research and engagement. Arthritis Research Canada’s scientific director, Dr. Diane Lacaille is leading a team of over 100 researchers, trainees and staff whose world recognized research is creating a future where people living with arthritis are empowered to triumph over pain and disability. Arthritis Research Canada is conducting research across Canada in British Columbia, Alberta and Quebec and is affiliated with five major universities: University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser University, University of Calgary, Université Laval, and McGill University. Arthritis Research Canada is leading research aimed at arthritis prevention, early diagnosis, new and better treatment, and improved quality of life.


For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

Heather Caulder
Marketing and Communications Coordinator
604-207-4010 or hcaulder@arthritisresearch.ca

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