Feasibility of cardiovascular disease risk assessments in rheumatology outpatient clinics: experiences from the nationwide NOCAR project


OBJECTIVE: The European League Against Rheumatism recommends implementing cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessments for patients with inflammatory joint diseases (IJDs) into clinical practice. Our goal was to design a structured programme for CVD risk assessments to be implemented into routine rheumatology outpatient clinic visits. METHODS: The NOrwegian Collaboration on Atherosclerosis in patients with Rheumatic joint diseases (NOCAR) started in April 2014 as a quality assurance project including 11 Norwegian rheumatology clinics. CVD risk factors were recorded by adding lipids to routine laboratory tests, self-reporting of CVD risk factors and blood pressure measurements along with the clinical joint examination. The patients’ CVD risks, calculated by the European CVD risk equation SCORE, were evaluated by the rheumatologist. Patients with high or very high CVD risk were referred to their primary care physician for initiation of CVD preventive measures. RESULTS: Data collection (autumn 2015) showed that five of the NOCAR centres had implemented CVD risk assessments. There were 8789 patients eligible for CVD risk evaluation (rheumatoid arthritis (RA), 4483; ankylosing spondylitis (AS), 1663; psoriatic arthritis (PsA), 1928; unspecified and other forms of spondyloarthropathies (SpA), 715) of whom 41.4 % received a CVD risk assessment (RA, 44.7%; AS, 43.4%; PsA, 36.3%; SpA, 30.6%). Considerable differences existed in the proportions of patients receiving CVD risk evaluations across the NOCAR centres. CONCLUSION: Patients with IJD represent a patient group with a high CVD burden that seldom undergoes CVD risk assessments. The NOCAR project lifted the offer of CVD risk evaluation to over 40% in this high-risk patient population.

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