Autoimmune rheumatic diseases (ARDs) involve multiple organs including the heart and vasculature. Despite novel treatments, patients with ARDs still experience a reduced life expectancy, partly caused by the higher prevalence of cardiovascular disease (CVD). This includes CV inflammation, rhythm disturbances, perfusion abnormalities (ischaemia/infarction), dysregulation of vasoreactivity, myocardial fibrosis, coagulation abnormalities, pulmonary hypertension, valvular disease, and side-effects of immunomodulatory therapy. Currently, the evaluation of CV involvement in patients with ARDs is based on the assessment of cardiac symptoms, coupled with electrocardiography, blood testing, and echocardiography. However, CVD may not become overt until late in the course of the disease, thus potentially limiting the therapeutic window for intervention. More recently, cardiovascular magnetic resonance (CMR) has allowed for the early identification of pathophysiologic structural/functional alterations that take place before the onset of clinically overt CVD. CMR allows for detailed evaluation of biventricular function together with tissue characterization of vessels/myocardium in the same examination, yielding a reliable assessment of disease activity that might not be mirrored by blood biomarkers and other imaging modalities. Therefore, CMR provides diagnostic information that enables timely clinical decision-making and facilitates the tailoring of treatment to individual patients. Here we review the role of CMR in the early and accurate diagnosis of CVD in patients with ARDs compared with other non-invasive imaging modalities. Furthermore, we present a consensus-based decision algorithm for when a CMR study could be considered in patients with ARDs, together with a standardized study protocol. Lastly, we discuss the clinical implications of findings from a CMR examination.
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- coronary artery disease
- inflammatory myocardial disease
- inflammatory vascular disease
- myocardial fibrosis
- pulmonary hypertension
- valvular heart disease
- vessel fibrosis