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The aim of the study was to evaluate atherosclerosis in ankylosing spondylitis (AS) through the assessment of morphological and functional measures of subclinical atherosclerosis. Twenty patients [M/F=12/8, age (median/range) 43.5/28-69 years; disease duration (median/range) 9.7/1-36) years] with AS classified according to modified New York criteria and twenty age and sex related healthy controls with negative past medical history for cardiovascular events were enrolled in the study. In all patients and controls, the intima-media thickness (IMT) of common carotid artery, carotid bulb and internal carotid artery, and the flow-mediated dilatation (FMD) of non-dominant arm brachial artery were determined, using a sonographic probe Esaote GPX (Genoa, Italy). Furthermore, we assess the main disease activity and disability indices [bath ankylosing spondylitis disease activity index, ankylosing spondylitis disease activity score-eritrosedimentation rate (ASDAS-ESR), ASDAS-C-reactive protein (CRP), bath ankylosing spondylitis metrology index, bath ankylosing spondylitis functional index) and acute phase reactants. Plasmatic values of total cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein, high-density lipoprotein, triglyceride and homocysteine were carried out in all twenty patients. IMT at carotid bulb was significant higher in patients than in controls (0.67 mm vs 0.54 mm; P=0.03). FMD did not statistically differ between patients and controls (12.5% vs 15%; P>0.05). We found a correlation between IMT at carotid bulb and ESR (rho 0.43; P=0.04). No correlation was found between FMD and disease activity and disability indices. This study showed that in AS patients, without risk factors for cardiovascular disease, carotid bulb IMT, morphological index of subclinical atherosclerosis, is higher than in controls.
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