Accelerated atheromatosis and arteriosclerosis in primary systemic vasculitides: current evidence and future perspectives

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Purpose of review

Primary systemic vasculitides (PSV) encompass a subset of autoimmune diseases, characterized by inflammation of blood vessels. Atheromatosis and arteriosclerosis may be accelerated in several PSV and account for the increased rate of cardiovascular morbidity that some exhibit. We aimed to summarize recent studies reporting on the acceleration of atheromatosis and/or arteriosclerosis in each type of PSV, using state-of-the-art noninvasive vascular biomarkers with clinical value as end points.

Recent findings

Limited number of PSV patients and methodology limitations reduce the value of many published studies. Accelerated atheromatosis, as measured by the use of carotid ultrasonagraphy (plaques and intimal–medial thickening) and increased arterial stiffening, as measured by the use of applanation tonometry (carotid to femoral pulse wave velocity), are currenly well established in Takayasu arteritis, Kawasaki disease and Behcet's disease. The association of atheromatosis and arteriosclerosis with polyarteritis nodosa and small vessel vasculitides remains less established and studied, so far.


Accelerated atheromatosis and arteriosclerosis or arteriosclerosis are established in some PSV. The potential clinical value of easy-to-measure and clinically useful noninvasive vascular biomarkes prompts the need for large prospective cohorts in order to provide useful future guidance regarding the prognosis and treatment of PSV patients.

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