OBJECTIVE: To evaluate cardiac involvement in patients with ankylosing spondylitis using cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR).
METHODS: Patients with ankylosing spondylitis without cardiovascular symptoms or known cardiovascular disease were screened by transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) for participation in this exploratory CMR study. We prospectively enrolled 15 ankylosing spondylitis patients with an abnormal TTE for further tissue characterisation using late gadolinium enhancement (LGE) and T1 mapping. T1 mapping was used to calculate myocardial extracellular volume (ECV). Disease activity was assessed by C reactive protein (CRP) and erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) measurements.
RESULTS: In the total of 15 included patients, 14 had a complete CMR exam (mean age 62 years, 93% male and mean disease duration 21 years). Left ventricular (LV) diastolic dysfunction was the most common finding on TTE (79%), followed by aortic root dilatation (14%), right ventricular (RV) dilatation (7%) and RV dysfunction (7%). CMR revealed focal hyperenhancement in three patients (21%), all with a particular pattern of enhancement. LV dysfunction, as defined by a LV ejection fraction below 55%, was observed in five patients (36%). Myocardial ECV was correlated with the CRP concentration (R=0.78, p<0.01) and ESR level (RS=0.73, p<0.01).
CONCLUSIONS: In patients with ankylosing spondylitis, CMR with cine imaging and LGE identified global LV dysfunction and focal areas of hyperenhancement. Myocardial ECV, quantified by CMR T1 mapping, was associated with the degree of disease activity. These results may suggest the presence of cardiac involvement in ankylosing spondylitis and may show the potential of ECV as a marker for disease monitoring.