Patients with rheumatoid arthritis are at a greater risk of atrial fibrillation than the general population, according to a Copenhagen University study in the BMJ.
The condition is already known to increase the risk of other cardiovascular events, including myocardial infarction.
The five year study involved more than four million people, of which 18,247 had rheumatoid arthritis.
The results show that patients with rheumatoid arthritis had a 40% increased risk of atrial fibrillation, compared with the general population (8.2 and 6 events per 1,000 person years respectively), with women at slightly higher risk than men.
This corresponds to one new case of atrial fibrillation per 12 rheumatoid arthritis patients followed for 10 years after diagnosis.
Patients with rheumatoid arthritis also had a 30% increased risk of stroke compared with the general population (7.6 and 5.7 events per 1,000 person years respectively).
- ‘Rheumatoid arthritis linked to irregular heart rhythm’. Press release. BMJ. Published 8 March 2012.